ACCC, Google prepare for mediation in Android privacy case

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The Australian Competition and Commission (ACCC) and Google are preparing for mediation in a Federal Court case that centres on the collection and use of location data by the Android operating system.

The two parties appeared this morning for a short case management hearing in Sydney before Justice Thawley.

The parties will head to mediation in the week commencing 3 August. “This is a common practice for proceedings in the Federal Court of Australia,” an ACCC spokesperson told Computerworld.

The case has also been listed for trial on the issue of liability for a period of five days, beginning 9 November.

“The ACCC cannot provide any further comment as the case is currently before the court,” the spokesperson said.

The ACCC in October began court proceedings against Google, alleging that the company was misleading Australian consumers about key privacy settings in Android.

A chief complaint of the ACCC is that Google doesn’t make it obvious that a Google Account on an Android handset will in some circumstances continue to collect location data even if “Location History” is disabled. Another “Web App Activity” setting also must be switched off, the ACCC said.

The commission also claims that Google misleads consumers about how their location data will be used.

Google has formally rejected the ACCC’s allegations, saying that the commission has “cherry picked” claims by ignoring the context for the relevant Android settings.

Last year in a court filing first reported by Computerworld the company formally set out its view that the ACCC’s case relies “upon a limited, and therefore artificial and incorrect, account of the way in which Users were provided with information relating to Google's collection, storage and use of their Personal Data.”

The ACCC case follows in the wake of its wide-ranging Digital Platforms Inquiry, which focused heavily on the market power of Google and Facebook. ACCC chair Rod Sims revealed in December that the commission had five active investigations under way as a result of the inquiry.

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