Google Faces Australian Inquiry Over User Data Harvesting Concerns With Android

Doug Carpenter
May 15, 2018

Industry analysts estimate there are more than 10 million Android users in Australia.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (or ACCC) is Australia's equivalent of the FTC in the United States, regulating business practices to protect the consumer and promoting healthy competition among businesses.

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

The technology giant Google is being investigated in Australia for allegedly collecting data from millions of Android smartphone users. Oracle Australia, a branch of Oracle Corporation, recently met with members of the ACCC and claimed that Google harvests an average of a gigabyte of data a month from individual Android users. The ACCC was already investigating Google and Facebook's impact on the advertising market.

According to Oracle, the data from locations is then being fed to advertisers to help serve more targeted advertising.

The ACCC does not seem to be taking Oracle's claims at face value, but is "considering information it has provided about Google services". Oracle also found that Google could also be gathering round 1GB of person data monthly.

Oracle warned users that Google could also be accessing their location data even when they are not using GPS-enabled apps and if their phone is in aeroplane mode.

The apps, once installed, take measures to stay on the device, disappear and wipe their tracks, including waiting for hours before launching malicious activity to avoid arousing suspicion and requesting admin privileges - using the Google Play icon when doing so to feign legitimacy.

"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. According to Oracle, Google is able to get information as accurate as "which level of a shopping mall you are on" by using barometric pressure reading.

Meanwhile, a Google spokesperson has told The Queensland Times that Oracle's presentation was "sleight of hand" and that users can see and control what data the Google collects and how it is being used by visiting the My Account section.

Volvo and Google first teamed up past year when Volvo first announced it would be using an Android-based infotainment system in future cars.

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