In May, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton filed a lawsuit against Alphabet’s Google claiming the Google search engine still collects data on users who think they can be anonymous if they use a “private browsing” mode. The lawsuit came about eight months after US District Judge Lucy Koh was “disturbed” to learn that Google still tracks users in ‘Incognito’ mode in its Chrome browser.
Fast forward almost a year later, Australia’s competition watchdog said on Friday that Google was ordered by the Australian Federal Court to pay A$60 million ($42.7 million) in penalties for misleading users on the collection of their personal location data, Reuters reported.
It all started in October 2019 after the watchdog started the proceedings against Google and its local unit. The country’s court later found that Google misled some of its customers about personal location data collected through their Android mobile devices between January 2017 and December 2018. The regulator said that Google took remedial measures in 2018
The Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC) estimates that 1.3 million Google account users in Australia may have been affected. In an email to Reuters, Google said it had settled the complaints and added it has made location information simple for users to manage and easy to understand.
In a statement, the ACCC said that Google misled users into believing the “location history” setting on their android phones was the only way location data could be collected by it when a feature to monitor web and applications activity also allowed local data collection and storage.
Google is not new to lawsuits. In June 2020, a $5 billion lawsuit was filed against Google in the U.S. District Court, Northern District of California for tracking ‘private’ internet use and violating federal wiretapping and California privacy laws.
The complainants accused the Alphabet Inc unit of surreptitiously collecting information about what people view online and where they browse, despite their using what Google calls Incognito mode.
While users may view private browsing as a safe haven from watchful eyes, computer security researchers have long raised concern that Google and rivals might augment user profiles by tracking people’s identities across different browsing modes, combining data from private and ordinary internet surfing.
The complaint said the proposed class likely includes “millions” of Google users who since June 1, 2016, browsed the internet in “private” mode. It seeks at least $5,000 of damages per user for violations of federal wiretapping and California privacy laws.