Court dismisses ACCC case against Google

ACCC

The Federal Court has dismissed the ACCC’s case, finding that Google LLC (Google) did not mislead Australian consumers when it published an on-screen notification to Australian users, and changed its privacy policy to expand the scope of its use and collection of personal data.

The ACCC had alleged that the notification was misleading because it did not adequately inform consumers about these changes

In June 2016, Google introduced changes which, if a consumer clicked ‘I agree’ in response to the notification, allowed Google to combine personal information in consumers’ Google accounts with information about their activity on non-Google sites that used Google technology (formerly called DoubleClick technology) to display ads.

This meant that internet tracking data that had previously been kept separate from users’ Google accounts and was not linked to an individual user, was now linked to users’ names and other identifying information.

This newly combined information was used to improve Google’s advertising business.

The ACCC also argued that changes to the privacy policy reduced the rights of account holders’ without obtaining their explicit consent.

The Court found that the notification and the changes to the privacy policy were not misleading because Google sought the consent of account holders to implement the changes and only implemented the steps with their informed consent. The Court also noted that Google did not reduce account holders’ rights under the privacy policy.

“Google’s conduct came to our attention as a result of our work on the Digital Platforms Inquiry. We took this case because we were concerned that Google was not adequately providing consumers with clear and transparent information about how it collects and uses consumer data,” ACCC Acting Chair Delia Rickard said.

“We will now carefully consider the judgment.”

Background

The ACCC instituted these proceedings against Google in July 2020.

Google LLC is incorporated in the United States and based in Mountain View, California. It is a subsidiary of Alphabet Inc.

Google supplies a range of services to consumers in Australia including Google Search, Google Maps, Gmail, YouTube, Google Play and Google Chrome.

Google also provides advertising services and analytics services to individuals and businesses. Advertising services are provided on Google services, such as Google Search, Google Maps and YouTube, as well as on websites and mobile device based applications not published or controlled by Google that partner with Google to display advertisements.

Google derives most of its revenue from its advertising and analytics services.

Depending on the device and Google service being used by the consumer, the notification published by Google from 28 June 2016 was presented in a variety of ways. A copy of the notification in the form published to consumers using desktop devices is provided below for reference.

Google notification
A copy of the notification in the form published to consumers using desktop devices

The relevant changes to Google’s Privacy Policy made on 28 June 2016 are also shown below for reference.

The relevant changes to Google's Privacy Policy made on 28 June 2016

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