The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has launched federal court proceedings against Google over its alleged misleading of consumers to obtain more personal information for the use in targeted advertising.

The consumer watchdog is claiming the internet giant used "deception by design" to create user notifications about changes to their privacy policies that actively confuse people, rather than help them. It is alleging the tech giant did not adequately convey to consumers how much of their personal data it was collecting, or how it was going to be used by the company, when it made a change to its policies in June 2016. However, the proceedings do not allege any violation of privacy laws.

“We are taking this action because we consider Google misled Australian consumers about what it planned to do with large amounts of their personal information, including internet activity on websites not connected to Google,” said ACCC Chair, Rod Sims.

“Google significantly increased the scope of information it collected about consumers on a personally identifiable basis. 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,” he added.

A Google spokesperson said the platform strongly denies the allegations from the ACCC and insists users were given ample opportunity to not consent to the changes. “We strongly disagree with their allegations and intend to defend our position,” said the spokesperson.

The federal court case is the second to be launched by the ACCC against Google, having previously taken aim at the tech company over allegations that Android users did not realise a two-step process was needed to block Google from collecting location data from their devices. This case is due to be heard on November 30.

Sims said the consumer watchdog was considering several other cases against the tech giants on the back of the digital platforms inquiry last year.

"It's fair to say there will be more [cases]. We’ll make judgments about issues we see either under consumer law or competition law, where we think there's been real harm and where they really matter,” he added.

The Australian government has been aggressive in its attempts to police digital platforms such as Goole and Facebook. Recent moves include the formation of a dedicated unit within the ACCC with A$27m in funding, to examine online advertising and ad-tech services that determine how consumers are targeted using data. 

It also indicated its intent to review current media and privacy regulations, with the commencement of a staged process to reform media regulation towards an “end state of a platform-neutral regulatory framework covering both online and offline delivery” of media content to Australian consumers. 

Sourced from Mumbrella, The Australian Financial Review