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Google Faces Lawsuit In Australia Over Use Of Personal Data

As Google CEO Sundar Pichai prepares to appear before Congress Wednesday (July 29) to face antitrust charges, Australia’s competition watchdog has accused the Alphabet Inc. division of misleading consumers to get their personal data for targeted advertising.

Reuters reports the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has accused Google of failing to get consent or inform consumers before combining personal information in Google accounts with browsing activities on non-Google websites.

“This change ... was worth a lot of money to Google,” ACCC Commission Chairman Rod Sims told Reuters. “We allege they’ve achieved it through misleading behavior. 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.”

The action, which allegedly took place four years ago, allowed Google to link the browsing behavior of millions of consumers with their names and identities, providing it with “extreme” market power, the regulator said.

Google has denied the charges and said it intends to defend its position because consumer consent was sought through simple notifications.

“If a user did not consent, their experience of our products and services remained unchanged,” a Google spokesman told Reuters in an email.

In 2016, Google amended its privacy policy and eliminated a promise that it would not combine data known as “cookies” from its advertisement display business, DoubleClick, with users’ personal information.

Instead, the new policy said depending on account settings, activity on other sites and apps may be associated with personal information in order to improve Google services.

But the Australian regulator alleges Google used the combined data to be more profitable and failed to make clear to consumers the changes in its privacy policy.

Sims told Reuters the regulator’s action in Australia’s Federal Court is to seek a ruling rule on what providers can do and potentially seek money damages.

“We will keep taking action, as will agencies overseas, and it will shape how these platforms behave, to make sure that the internet is a benefit to users, not a detriment,” Sims said.

Pichai is expected to to appear before The House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial and Administrative Law this week with Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, Apple CEO Tim Cook and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to explain its competitive practices.

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