Location data can be highly valuable to advertisers trying to pitch products and services to consumers. (AFP photo) Location data can be highly valuable to advertisers trying to pitch products and services to consumers. (AFP photo)

SYDNEY: An Australian court ruled Friday that Google misled consumers about collecting location data through Android mobile devices in what the country’s competition watchdog called a “world-first” action against the digital giant.

The federal court found that Google violated Australian consumer law by collecting the “Location History” of some users even when they had opted out of sharing that information.

It also said Google failed to make clear to users that allowing tracking of “Web & App Activity” on their phones would also give permission to retain the location data.

Numerous studies around the world have documented the problem of location data being gathered through Android and iPhone devices even after users believe they have chosen not to allow the tracking.

Such data can be highly valuable to advertisers trying to pitch location-related products and services.

But the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), which brought the court case against Google, said Friday’s ruling was “a world-first enforcement action” on the issue.

“This is an important victory for consumers, especially anyone concerned about their privacy online, as the court’s decision sends a strong message to Google and others that big businesses must not mislead their customers,” ACCC Chair Rod Sims said.

“Today’s decision is an important step to make sure digital platforms are upfront with consumers about what is happening with their data and what they can do to protect it,” he said.

In his ruling, Federal Court Judge Thomas Thawley “partially” accepted the ACCC case against Google, noting that the company’s “conduct would not have misled all reasonable users” of its service.

But he added that Google’s action “misled or was likely to mislead some reasonable users” and that “the number or proportion of reasonable users

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