Published: Tue, May 15, 2018
Research | By Clarence Powell

Democrats ask FTC to investigate Google's data collection practices

A spokesman for Google said the company has users' permission to collect data. 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. The U.S. based software company is seeking royalties for Google's use of some of the Java language, while Google argues it should be able to use Java without paying a fee.

They cited a Quartz report in November that showed the company collects location information from Android users even when they have turned off location services, haven't used any apps or even inserted a SIM card.

Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) is starting an investigation.

"All that it takes for users to expose themselves to this collection is to once allow an ambiguously described feature, for example when trying to display photos on a map on the Google Photo service, silently enabling the feature across devices with no expiration date", the senators wrote. Google notes, "With Location History off, the places you go are no longer stored".

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Transferring that information to Google means using up gigabytes of data that consumers have paid for under data packages purchased from telecoms, according to the Oracle report. The Daily Telegraph reports that the ACCC brought in experts from Oracle for information on an inquiry into "digital platforms including Google and Facebook", particularly in regards to consumer knowledge of location data usage. A Google spokesperson had denied the alleged misuse of information, mentioning that the "location-data-harvesting system was separate from that one, being focused on messaging services", as reported by Fortune. Presently, a gigabyte of data costs about $3.60-$4.50 a month.

Australian Privacy Foundation's head David Vaile noted that many mobile plans offer customers a few gigabytes of mobile data.

Location sharing was also said to be an opt-in. Further, referring to My Account in the settings, it says that users have full control over their data and how it can be used.

As per the allegations, location data along with other major data points of Android users are being sent to Google servers using Android users' own data, which is approximately 1 GB, per month. There is no evidence if the search giant has ceased such practices, or is still continuing with it.

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