Is Google tracking location without permission? FTC probe urged, Australia inquiry begins

Australian regulator investigates Google data harvesting from Android phones

Telcos' 'please explain' to Google over user data cost

Google and Oracle have for some time been occupied with a scope of fights in court, and now, the most recent cycle is playing out in Australia, where Oracle has effectively persuaded rivalry and privacy controllers to investigate how Google supposedly tracks its Android telephone clients.

"Based on our investigation and public reports on location history, we have significant reservations about Google's failure to clearly account for how that location data is collected and used by the company", the senators wrote.

"For example, any Android user is familiar with Google Maps" nag screen: "To continue, turn on device location, which uses Google's location services" - and rather than "yes/no" as the choice, that dialogue offers "Cancel" and "OK".

The senators had earlier asked the company to explain its collection of location data, and were not satisfied by the company's response in January. That's because the Global Positioning System is only the most accurate source of location data - if a Wi-Fi hotspot is known to Google, for example, then logging into it will give the company a fairly accurate location for a device.

"Google has an intimate understanding of personal lives as they watch their users seek the support of reproductive health services, engage in civic activities, or attend places of religious worship", the senators wrote.

There are two central claims in the Oracle document according to the report: 1) consumers don't fully understand, and therefore didn't consent to, Google's data collection practices and 2) the the transfer of data to Google is partly or entirely subsidized by consumers' data plans.

Sources cite that Oracle had requested the ACCC to look into the issue where Android smartphones send comprehensive information on Google searches and also the information that is being viewed. When reached Tuesday, the FTC said it had no comment.

Like the USA senators, Australian regulators question whether consumers have given valid consent for the extent of Google's information collection. Both the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) and the country's Privacy Commissioner said they were reviewing the report's findings. It has been claimed that the inquiry has been the result of the concerns raised by the Australian media firms over the influence of Facebook as well as Google on the advertising sector.

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