Australia investigates Google data harvesting from Android phones

Australia investigates Google data harvesting from Android phones

Coincidentally, a few days after the senators penned their letter, it emerged that Oracle had briefed Australia's competition regulator about Google's data-acquisition activities, complete with claims that Android devices send improbably large quantities of data home to Google each month.

Transferring this information to Google means the use of gigabytes of data paid by consumers in the form of data packages from telecommunication service providers.

A year ago similar claims were made about Android smartphones in a Quartz report, including the idea that user location was being relayed to Google even when location services were turned off. The ACCC was already investigating Google and Facebook's impact on the advertising market.

One example of this, the letter notes, is Google's ability to share blog posts about "holiday shopping habits" through the data it collects from users' Location History. The software company also claims that the search giant gets detailed information on people's searches and surfing from the Android devices.

According to reports: "Google has mapped IP addresses, Wi-Fi connection points, and mobile towers".

Google's privacy consent discloses that it tracks location "when you search for a restaurant on Google Maps".

Data privacy advocates said many consumers are unlikely to understand what they agreed to when signing up to use a smartphone.

In Australia, 10 million people use an Android phone, which is almost half of the population. "We are aware of the reports in the media and we have asked Google to advise whether they are accurate", a spokesman for Australia's biggest telecom company Telstra said. The OS targets useless notifications as told by the users.

"The ACCC met with Oracle and is considering information it has provided about Google services", said the chairman of the ACCC, Rod Sims. Among the questions that remain: whether Google actually gives users the right to opt out of location tracking, as the company says it does, and whether Google is being transparent about how it's using location data.

Like the USA senators, Australian regulators question whether consumers have given valid consent for the extent of Google's information collection.

Google says it is always focused on protecting user data and making its products better.