ACCC launches legal action against Google for misleading customers about targeted advertising
The corporate regulator is taking legal action against tech giant Google for allegedly misleading Australians about how it collected personal information for targeted advertising.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has launched proceedings against the US-based company in the Federal Court, after Google reportedly failed to notify consumers about how it obtained personal data to be used for further internet activity.
The ACCC alleges from 2016 onwards, Google did not gain explicit consent from users about sharing their personal information onto non-Google third parties.
“We allege that Google did not obtain explicit consent from consumers to take this step,” ACCC chair Rod Sims said.
“The use of this new combined information allowed Google to increase significantly the value of its advertising products, from which it generated much higher profits.”
Third parties purchase personal data information from Google for activities such as personalised display ads, which is targeted advertising based on a respective individuals tastes and preferences.
Prior to 2016, Google had kept account information separate, which meant third parties would obtain data that had been de-identified.
According to the ACCC, the changes made to Google’s data mining business meant third party customers were being provided with names and other information which could identify a specific person.
Mr Sims said Google’s actions meant very sensitive and private information had been passed onto third party websites to produce targeted and aggressive personal advertising.
“Google significantly increased the scope of information it collected about consumers on a personally identifiable basis,” Mr Sims said.
“This included potentially very sensitive and private information about their activities on third party websites. It then used this information to serve up highly targeted advertisements without consumers’ express informed consent.”
Google said it strongly disagrees with the allegations made by the ACCC and its system changes in 2016 were optional.
“The changes we made were optional and we asked users to consent via prominent and easy-to-understand notifications,” a Google spokesman said.
“If a user did not consent, their experience of our products and services remained unchanged.”