Google accused of unlawful data harvesting for clients
Google chiefs may have been quietly smug about Facebook's data protection woes but they have had those smiles wiped off their faces following claims that the company has been illegally harvesting huge amounts of user information from Android phones.
According to media report in Australia, tech company Oracle told the country's consumer watchdog, the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC), that Google could be gathering up one gigabyte worth of data from the 10 million Android devices in Australia every month.
It is claimed that Google then uses this information to snoop on users and shares it with advertisers, notifying them how often its online ads have led to store visits.
The information beamed back to Google from smartphones includes barometric pressure readings that allow it to identify, for example, what level of a shopping mall consumers are on. By combining this data with customers' coordinates, Google can allegedly tell which stores they have visited.
ACCC chairman Rod Sims – who is leading the inquiry into tech firms like Google and Facebook – described the revelations as “extremely interesting”. "The more we get into this inquiry the more we realise there are lots of issues (around) competition and privacy,” he said.
However, Google has refuted the claims, branding Oracle's allegations a "sleight of hand". The company added that users are able to see what data it is collecting on them by checking their "My Account" settings and controls.