Australia’s competition regulator is investigating accusations that Google harvests a large amount of data from Android devices, including detailed location information. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) is looking into the issue, and cites experts from software company Oracle as claiming Google could be collecting data from Android devices per month – something that eats 1GB of data out of users’ data plan. In wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, especially amid the crisis that unfolded in recent weeks over the sharing of personal user data, Google may have found itself in a soup.
As per a report in The Queensland Times, the ACCC is investigating accusations that Google is using up to $580-million worth of Australians’ data yearly to track their movement and give that data to advertisers. The data will reveal whether online ads are leading to store visits. According to the experts at Oracle cited by the ACCC, Google is draining around 1GB of mobile data monthly from Android phone users’ accounts. 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.
Meanwhile, ACCC Chairman Rod Sims is quoted to have said he was briefed by experts at Oracle who had intercepted, copied, and decrypted messages sent back to Google from smartphones running on the company’s Android OS.
As per the report, Oracle experts have said that consumer data gets used even if Google Maps is not in use or Aeroplane mode is switched on. The Alphabet-owned company is said to send back location info of Android users to its servers even if location services are turned off. Also, removing the SIM card does not stop it.
Oracle experts reportedly said that only on turning off an Android device prevents the tracking. 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.
“My people are looking into it,” the ACCC’s Sims was quoted as having told News Corp Australia. “The more we get into this inquiry the more we realise there are lots of issues (around) competition and privacy,” he said.
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. Location sharing was also said to be an opt-in.