The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has taken aim (again) at Google LLC, bringing proceedings in the Federal Court last month that allege the digital giant misled consumers in respect of its privacy notices.
If the ACCC is successful, the outcome would likely herald big changes for how consumer consents (including for the collection of personal information) are obtained, given that consumers have almost grown used to generalised statements and hidden meanings.
In order to implement this change, Google users were prompted to click ‘agree’ to a pop-up notification which read much like a service improvement message, and included the following wording:
We’ve introduced some optional features for your account, giving you more control over the data Google collects and how it’s used, while allowing Google to show you more relevant ads.
Users were given the option to click either “I agree”, or, “more information”. Apparently, over 80 per cent of people clicked “I agree” on the first page of the notification. The ACCC will argue that so many agreed because the wording of the opt-in message suggested that consumers were agreeing to something more innocuous and that the pop-up message would therefore be readily dismissed in our thirst to consume that YouTube video or get our search results.
The proceedings should make all businesses think about how they express information in their privacy policies and privacy consent notices, including updates made to them. For example, often you will see statements such as “we will never share your personal information with third parties” when such activities are usually part and parcel of running a business. What businesses often mean instead is that they will not ‘sell’ users’ personal information to third parties. The outcome will also be important in determining what constitutes informed consent and how far organisations need to go to obtain this consent.
Author: Emily Booth
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