In Australian Federal Court, 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. This allowed Google to link the browsing behavior of millions of users with their names and identities, providing it with “extreme market power.” As the change was “worth a lot of money to Google,” the commission alleges that it was “achieved through misleading behavior.”
Google argues that the change was optional and consumer consent was sought through prominent and easy-to-understand notifications. “If a user did not consent, their experience of our products and services remained unchanged,” a Google spokesperson commented, adding that the company fully intends to defend its actions.
The regulator believes that Google did not sufficiently inform Australian consumers about what it sought to do with their personal information, including internet activity on websites not related to Google itself. The case intends to clarify the common law on what providers in various jurisdictions could do, and is seeking a fine “in the millions”.