The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) is taking Google and its Australian outpost to court over allegations that the search giant misled consumers about the location data collected on Android devices.
The ACCC is alleging that during 2017 and 2018, Google did not inform Australians that they needed to have the Location History setting within Android, as well as the Web & App Activity setting, disabled to prevent Google storing location data.
The watchdog is arguing that consumers were led to believe that Location History was the only setting that needed to be switched off.
"We allege that Google misled consumers by staying silent about the fact that another setting also had to be switched off," ACCC chair Rod Sims said.
"Many consumers make a conscious decision to turn off settings to stop the collection of their location data, but we allege that Google's conduct may have prevented consumers from making that choice."
The ACCC is further alleging that, during the latter half of last year, Google had told its users they needed to stop using services like Maps and Search to prevent location data being collected, when switching off the Location History and Web & App Activity settings would have sufficed.
Google also allegedly misrepresented how location data would be used, according to the ACCC.
"From March 2017 when a consumer accessed the 'Web & App Activity' settings, and from May 2018 when a consumer accessed the 'Location History' setting, Google displayed on-screen messages that represented that location data would only be collected and used by Google for the consumer's use of Google services," the regulator said.
"Google did not disclose that the data may be used by Google for a number of other purposes unrelated to the consumer's use of Google's services."
In August, Sims revealed that the ACCC had five investigations looking into Google and Facebook.
The search giant used its response to the ACCC to say its advertising platforms help publishers make more money online and drive traffic.
Rejecting the idea that the digital giants are merely 'dumb pipes', ACCC chair Rod Sims has said taking them to court lays down rules within which they must operate.
Set up under the ACCC, the new specialist digital platforms branch aims to scrutinise the activities of tech giants.
If Google doesn't offer its Android-using consumers a choice of search engine within six months, the ACCC will ask the government to step in and demand it.