A data privacy complaint has been submitted by a group of European Union-based consumer watchdogs against Google. They believe that the company is using methods to record web users’ locations for ad-targeting campaigns which are not compliant with the data privacy legislation.
Data processing consent must be provided by the individual/subjected in a manner which is specific, informed and freely given. This is per the GDPR legislation. This is not the case with Google’s methods, according to the group of watchdogs. The GDPR complaint was launched after an investigation by the Associated Press discovered that a number of Google services running on Android and Apple devices calculate the user’s location and store it. This is despite the fact that, in many cases, the user does not have Google’s “Location History” setting enabled on their device.
The Norwegian Consumer Council are among the complainants of Google’s practices. “When we carry our phones, Google is recording where we go, down to which floor we are on and how we are moving,” says Gro Mette Moen, acting head of Norwegian Consumer Council in a statement. “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.”
A massive fine as high as €20m or 4% of annual global revenue will be placed on Google if they are found guilty. This is in line with new GDPR legislation.
A Google spokesperson released this statement in response to the complaints and accusations: “Location History is turned off by default, and you can edit, delete, or pause it at any time. If it’s on, it helps 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. 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.”
This is not the first complaint Google have faced since the introduction of GDPR earlier this year. The search engine giant was also included in a number of other GDPR complaints such as a complaint submitted by Internet browser Brave, and a complaint that led to the discontinuation of the Google social media platform Google+. It is not just Google that has been hit with numerous complaints since the introduction of GDPR. Facebook, Twitter and Instagram have also had their fair share of complaints registered by various different data authorities around the European Union.