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Australian regulator sues Google for linking users’ data ‘without their consent’ to target ads

Australia’s competition and consumer rights watchdog — Australian Competition & Consumer Commission — on July 26, sued Google for allegedly “misleading” “millions of Australians” to collect “potentially sensitive and private” browsing history of its users, without people’s informed consent. It said that the company did not gain explicit consent from users, about its move in 2016 to start combining personal information in consumers’ Google accounts with information about those individuals’ activities on non-Google sites that used Google technology, formerly DoubleClick technology, to display ads. “This meant this data about users’ non-Google online activity became linked to their names and other identifying information held by Google. Previously, this information had been kept separately from users’ Google accounts, meaning the data was not linked to an individual user.Google then used this newly combined information to improve the commercial performance of its advertising businesses,” the regulator said in a statement. It also alleged that Google misled consumers about a related change to its privacy policy. “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,” ACCC Chair Rod Sims said. “The use of this new combined information allowed Google to increase significantly the value of its advertising products, from which it generated much higher profits. The ACCC considers that consumers effectively pay for Google’s services with their data, so this change introduced by Google increased the “price” of Google’s services, without…

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