The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) is currently looking into allegations that Google has been tracking Australian Android users.
There is a popular claim that Google is using up to $580 million worth of data without customer knowledge to collect information for advertisers.
Technology guru Stephen Fenech has the details.
“Google needs to be a bit more transparent about this,” he tells Chris Smith.
“Their intentions here are evil.
“If it’s impacting a customer’s use of their phone and costing them money, then definitely something’s got to be done.”
The Australian revealed that Oracle had made a presentation to the ACCC, which is holding an inquiry into digital platforms. The inquiry was prompted by the concerns of Australian media companies about the impact that Google and Facebook are having on the advertising market.
According to the Oracle presentation to the ACCC, Android devices send detailed information on searches and what is being viewed. But they can also send precise locations even if location services are turned off, and they do not have a Sim card or apps installed.
Google has mapped IP addresses, wifi connection points and mobile towers, which allow it to know where a device is connecting or attempting to connect without using the phone’s location service.
According to the chairman of the Australian Privacy Foundation, David Vaile, the company initially did this as part of its Street View surveying but it is now kept up-to-date by the huge amount of data that Android device users are routinely sending back.
Android phones also include barometric devices that can use air pressure to calculate where a person is located in a multistorey building.
Google argues that the tracking of data is done with the permission of phone users but there is a question over whether there is valid consent.
But it does not explicitly refer to Android devices, just Google services.
It also says: “When you use Google services we may collect and process information about your actual location.”
The chairman of the ACCC, Rod Sims, confirmed the regulator had been given a presentation by Oracle and would look into Google’s practices as part of its inquiry into digital platforms.
“The ACCC met with Oracle and is considering information it has provided about Google services,” Sims said. “We are exploring how much consumers know about the use of location data and are working closely with the privacy commissioner.”
Vaile said users had to realise that Google and Facebook were in the commercial surveillance business and the heart of their business model was selling services for advertising purposes.
“They are both extremely good at manipulating the law and they use those legalities,” he said. “Their initial approach is to ignore any potential breaches of privacy and, as we have now seen, when people notice, their approach is to ask for forgiveness.”
Google had made it clear that it saw its future in artificial intelligence, Vaile said.
“Google has self-evolving machine-learning algorithms that use this data being sent from Android devices,” he said. “They let them loose on the data and see what they come up with. Yes, they want to improve their services but on a competitive basis they want to consolidate their leadership in AI.”
Stephen says Apple iPhone users are not affected.