A group of ten European consumer organisations have banded together to take legal action against Google in response to the manner in which the business handles the creation of new accounts. In order to make use of a variety of Google’s products and services, it is necessary to have a Google account. The coalition, on the other hand, claims that the sign-up process guides consumers toward alternatives that capture more data. According to Google’s statement to the BBC, the company is pleased to have the opportunity to discuss the matter with consumer groups.
The corporation asserted that sincerity and openness were prerequisites for gaining the trust of customers, and it had “pinned our hopes for the company’s continued prosperity on the development of ever-simpler, more user-friendly controls and the provision of individuals with more transparent options. “And another crucial factor is achieving more with fewer data points.”
Confidentiality by default
According to the European Consumer Organization (BEUC), which is in charge of coordinating the coalition, the terminology that Google employs in the registration process is “unclear, incomplete, and deceptive,” which causes many customers to select options that are less respectful of their privacy.
BEUC asserts that as a direct consequence of this, “tens of millions of Europeans have been placed on a fast track to surveillance when they signed up for a Google account.” The consumer organisation is of the opinion that the point at which Google invites users to pick how their account will function is the most important part of the sign-up process.
However, the report claims that customers are left with account settings that “fuel Google’s surveillance activities” when they use the quickest and easiest method, which is called “express personalization.”
In addition, the consumer organisation claims that Google does not give its customers the opportunity to ‘switch off’ all of their settings with a single click. According to BEUC, instead, it takes ten steps and five clicks to turn off the trackers that Google wants to set on a new account. These trackers relate to the user’s web and app behaviour, as well as their YouTube history and personalised advertising on their account.
BEUC Deputy Director General Ursula Pachl made the following statement: “It only takes one easy step to give Google permission to monitor and take advantage of everything you do. If you want to take advantage of settings that are more protective of your privacy, you will need to go through a more involved process that includes a variety of ambiguous and deceptive alternatives.
Ms Pachl added: “When you sign up for a Google account, you are, to put it succinctly, inviting surveillance upon yourself, both intentionally and unintentionally. Instead, customers should have the option to protect their privacy as their default and most straightforward selection.”
The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) of the EU mandates that platforms must provide users with privacy both intentionally and unintentionally. But Google insists that all of the options are labelled in a way that is clear and that they have been made to be straightforward and easy to comprehend. According to the corporation, they are based on considerable study as well as testing and supervision from regulatory authorities.
It stated that to the BBC “People ought to be able to comprehend the process by which data is compiled as a result of their use of online services. If they don’t like it, they should have the ability to voice their displeasure and have it addressed.”
BEUC members in the Czech Republic, Norway, Greece, France, and Slovenia have all filed GDPR complaints against Google with their respective data protection authorities. Additionally, groups in Sweden, Denmark, and the Netherlands have written to their own authorities about their concerns regarding Google’s policies. Google has been served with a warning letter that was sent by the Federation of German Consumer Organizations.
A determination in a few months.
At the same time as this most recent action is being taken, the BBC has been informed that an earlier inquiry that was initiated by BEUC has made progress. In 2018, members of the BEUC filed a complaint against Google stating that the tech giant violated the terms of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) by tracking the location of users. In July of 2019, the Data Protection Commission of Ireland was designated as the primary body to investigate and handle complaints.
The commission serves as the primary data protection authority for Google as well as a large number of other technology businesses that have their European headquarters in Ireland. In February of 2020, it initiated an investigation into Google’s usage of location data as well as its gathering of said data.
But Ms Pachl said, “Since we submitted complaints against Google’s location-tracking tactics more than three years ago, the Irish Data Protection Commissioner in charge of the case has not yet reached a conclusion about the matter.
While everything is going on, Google’s policies have not fundamentally shifted.”
In spite of this, Graham Doyle, the Deputy Data Protection Commissioner for Ireland, stated to the BBC that “our investigation into Google and location data is well progressed,” and that “we expect to send a draught decision to our colleague Data Protection Authorities in the next couple of months for their views.” Graham Doyle is the Deputy Data Protection Commissioner for Ireland.