It seems as though Google is still having trouble with Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), as seven consumer watchdogs have claimed the firm has violated the regulation. The complaint alleges that Google has been deceptively using location tracking in order to distribute targeted advertisements.
The EU’s GDPR went live in May, requiring that websites acquire consent from users before processing personal data. Although Google updated its policies to include the regulation, the grievance alleges that the company has illegally been using “location history” and “web & app activity” to hand out advertisements, particularly through Google accounts baked into its dominant Android operating system.
Due to the prominence of its mobile OS, the agencies state that this practice is unavoidable for many. Acting head of the Norwegian Consumer Council’s digital services unit, Gro Mette Moen, shared a statement on behalf of the allegations:
“Google is processing incredibly detailed and extensive personal data without proper legal grounds, and the data has been acquired through manipulation techniques. When we carry our phones, Google is recording where we go, down to which floor we are on and how we are moving. This can be combined with other information about us, such as what we search for, and what websites we visit. Such information can in turn be used for things such as targeted advertising meant to affect us when we are receptive or vulnerable.”
The complaint states that setting up Android isn’t as clear cut as it should be, allowing users to potentially enable Google to track their location history without knowing. Furthermore, Google’s intrusive assertion for the feature prompts those that did manage to avoid enabling the function multiple times throughout setup and subsequently when taking photos.
“Location History is turned off by default, and you can edit, delete, or pause it at any time. If it’s on, it helps to improve services like predicted traffic on your commute. If you pause it, we make clear that – depending on your individual phone and app settings – we might still collect and use location data to improve your Google experience,” explains Google in a statement to the press.
“We enable you to control location data in other ways too, including in a different Google setting called Web & App Activity, and on your device. We’re constantly working to improve our controls, and we'll be reading this report closely to see if there are things we can take on board.”
While Google won’t be the only company scrutinised during the early stages of GDPR implementation, if the firm is found guilty then it risks the maximum penalty of $4.4 billion depending on the category of felony. The lower tier demands 2 percent of a company’s annual global turnover or €10 million depending on which is higher, while greater breaches are issued a fine of 4 percent of global revenue, or €20 million.
KitGuru Says: How do you feel about Google tracking your location? Are you the type to turn it off as soon as you can? It’s always worth remembering that you can manually turn it off in the settings.