The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) is investigating the accusation that tech giant Google is using as much as $580 million worth of the phone plan data of Australians annually to track the citizens’ movements secretly.
Rod Sims, ACCC chairman, admitted U.S. experts briefed him recently after they intercepted, copied and decrypted messages sent back to Google from mobile phones operating running on Google’s Android operating system.
Experts from computer and software corporations Oracle is saying that Google is draining around one gigabyte of mobile data each month from the accounts of Android phone users to snoop information and pass it on to advertisers to help them.
Google’s privacy consent reveals that it tracks location each time users search for a restaurant on Google maps. However, it is not as straightforward when it comes to admitting the “constant monitoring” they employ in the background even when the Maps is not in use.
The thing is, Oracle experts explain that users’ data ends up being consumed even if Google Maps is not in use or if the airplane mode is on. Removing the SIM card won’t even stop such. The only way monitoring could be stopped is by turning off the phone.
Some of the information that Google includes are barometric pressure readings so they can detect what shopping mall users are in. By combining such information with the users’ coordinates, Google can cleverly establish the shops their users have visited.
Oracle further explained that such information can enable Google to go to advertisers and report how often online ads have been effective as they led to store visits.
Data costs are by no means cheap for users. A gig of data costs around $3.60 -$4.50 a month. There are about 10 million Australians with an Android phone. In that case, if Google had to pay for the data it is said to be siphoning, then it faces a bill of between a whopping $445 million and $580 million a year.
Sims promised that his people “are looking into it.” He also said the inquiry examining the impact of tech giants like Google, Facebook and others are very helpful. He added: “The more we get into this inquiry, the more we realize there are lots of issues around competition and privacy.”
Google and Oracle interestingly have been in a major patent dispute since 2012 emanating from the use of code from Oracle’s Java system in Android.