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Australia looking into claims that Google collects users' data

15 May 2018

According to reports: "Google has mapped IP addresses, Wi-Fi connection points, and mobile towers". The Alphabet-owned company is said to send back location info of Android users to its servers even if location services are turned off. Noted security researcher and the former chief technologist for the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), Ashkan Soltani, had then opined through a tweet that Oracle may be the hidden source of the allegation: "After 5+ mo of lobbying @oracle managed to finally sell this important @google @android privacy story to the press".

Google then uses this information to help advertisers.

Transferring that information to Google means using up gigabytes of data that consumers have paid for under data packages purchased from telecoms, according to the Oracle report.

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"Some mobile plans may only include a few gigabytes of data so if Google is harvesting a gigabyte of data, it is a very real cost to consumers", said David Vaile, chairman of the industry group, the Australian Privacy Foundation.

While the allegations are not new and they first appeared in November of previous year, the whistleblower remained unknown then.

The ACCC together with the Australian Privacy Commissioner are now reviewing the revealed information. The Daily Telegraph reports that the ACCC brought in experts from Oracle for information on an inquiry into "digital platforms including Google and Facebook", particularly in regards to consumer knowledge of location data usage.

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Earlier this month Symantec discovered 38 malicious apps carrying the Android.Reputation.1 Trojan on the Play Store disguised as game and education apps - hiding their existence from users by removing their icons from the home screen. Among the questions that remain: whether Google actually gives users the right to opt out of location tracking, as the company says it does, and whether Google is being transparent about how it's using location data. Also, its policy is silent on Google tracking Android users data in the background even when the Maps are not in use.

Responding to the latest privacy concerns surrounding Google, a spokesman for the US-based search engine operator said the company has users' permission to collect their data. Further, referring to My Account in the settings, it says that users have full control over their data and how it can be used.

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Australia looking into claims that Google collects users' data