Published: Tue, May 15, 2018
Research | By Derrick Holloway

Google is under investigation in Australia for data collection via Android devices

The technology giant Google is being investigated in Australia for allegedly collecting data from millions of Android smartphone users.

"Most consumers do not understand the level, granularity, and reach of Google's data collection, and there are serious questions about whether they have provided their informed consent and maintain a reasonable ability to avoid participating in this collection", the senators wrote.

Oracle investigators found that Google's parent company, Alphabet, secretly tracks users' web searches and their mobile phones locations if they use an Android smartphone. It said that 1GB of data costs about $3.60 (roughly Rs. 242) to $4.50 (roughly Rs. 303) per month, and with over 10 million Android phone users in Australia, Google would have had to pay around $445 million (roughly Rs. 3,000 crore) to $580 million (roughly Rs. 3,900 crore) a year.

The statement said: "Google is completely focused on protecting our users' data while making the products they love work better for them".

Google, which is now being investigated as part of the ACCC's inquiry into digital platforms, has been accused of paying telco providers to send the tech company users' data.

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All location sharing on Android is opt-in by the user.

The Google Assistant connects with all in-car functions, allowing the driver to control things such as air conditioning, apps, and even send messages by using voice commands, while the integration of Google Maps gives real-time map and traffic data.

"Any charges for transmission of data over a cellular connection, including any location-related data, would be governed by a user's mobile carrier plan", Google said.

While Google is open about the fact that it uses location information in apps like Maps, the company is not so forthcoming about monitoring location information when these services are not being used.

"Often the actual user choice is a screen that provides two choices, neither of which is a clear "No".

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With the EU General Data Protection Regulation set to come into force in just 11 days' time Google could also face further privacy investigations in Europe.

This information, the lawmakers argue, could be shared and used by advertisers.

Australian telecommunications companies said they were seeking confirmation from Google on the allegations.

The Hill reached out to Google for comment on the lawmakers' letter.

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