How ACCC claims Google changed the DoubleClick proposition



The complex case in which Australian regulator the ACCC accuses Google of misleading consumers goes back to 2008.

That's when the search giant acquired ad-tech provider DoubleClick, which later became known as Google Technology.

The ACCC says Google properly obtained consumers' consent to collect, combine and use more personal information about their internet activity. It alleges Google did not gain "explicit informed consent" about the move in 2016 to start combining personal information in consumers' Google accounts with information about those individuals' activities on non-Google sites that used the former DoubleClick technology to display ads. It also alleges that Google misled consumers about a related change to its privacy policy.

Chairman Rod Sims says Google "significantly increased" the scope of information it collected about consumers on a personally identifiable basis.

"This included potentially very sensitive and private information about their activities on third party websites. It then used this information to serve up highly targeted advertisements without consumers' express informed consent."

The ACCC reckons consumers effectively pay for Google's services with their data, and that this change increased the 'price' of Google's services without consumers' knowledge.

A notification between June 28 2016 and "at least" December 2018 prompted account holders to click a pop-up 'I agree' to a pop-up notification that they "could not have properly understood" and might have refused if they had.

Before then, Google had said it would not combine DoubleClick cookie information with personally identifiable information "unless we have your opt-in consent".

In its statement, the ACCC presents hypothetical examples of how the action might have worked out.

A subsidiary of Alphabet, Google's services in Australia include Search, Maps, Gmail, YouTube, Google Play and Google Chrome, as well as advertising services and analytics services to individuals and businesses.

Google says it "strongly disagrees" with the claims and will defend the case, having cooperated with the ACCC's investigation.