On Monday, Australia’s competition regulator accused Alphabet’s Google of misleading consumers to get permission for use of their personal data for targeted advertising, seeking a fine “in the millions” and aiming to establish a precedent.

The decision comes as scrutiny grows worldwide over data privacy, with US and European lawmakers recently focusing on how tech companies treat user data.

In court documents, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) accused Google of not explicitly getting consent or properly informing consumers of a 2016 move to combine personal information in Google accounts with browsing activities on non-Google websites.

Commission chairman Rod Sims said that “This change … was worth a lot of money to Google. We allege they’ve achieved it through misleading behavior.”

The regulator added that the change allowed Google to link the browsing behavior of millions of consumers with their names and identities, providing it with extreme market power.

Sims said that “We consider Google misled Australian consumers about what it planned to do with large amounts of their personal information, including internet activity on websites not connected to Google.”

However, Google said the change was optional and consumer consent was sought through prominent and easy-to-understand notifications.

A Google spokesman said in an email that “If a user did not consent, their experience of our products and services remained unchanged.”

Google had changed the wording of its privacy policy in June 2016, dropping a statement that it would not combine data known as “cookies” from its advertisement display business, DoubleClick, with users’ personal information.

Instead, the new policy read, “Depending on your account settings, your activity on other sites and apps may be associated with your personal information in order to improve Google services.”

The Australian regulator alleges that Google used the combined data to boost targeted advertising – a key income source – and that it did not make clear to consumers the changes in its privacy policy.

Sims said that “This is an action we are taking that others have not.”

He added without specifying a figure that the regulator, through its action in Australia’s Federal Court, wanted to establish the common law on what providers in various jurisdictions could do, and was potentially seeking “millions” in damages. We will keep taking action, as will agencies overseas, and it will shape how these platforms behave, to make sure that the Internet is a benefit to users, not a detriment.”

Source: https://gadgets.ndtv.com/internet/news/australian-regulator-sues-google-over-expanded-personal-data-use-2269297

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