They accuse the giant of “extensive and invasive processing” of personal data while making it difficult for users to better protect their privacy.
Google is in the sights of several consumer groups for its ” Surveillance system “. The European Consumers’ Bureau (BEUC) announced on June 30 that associations from five countries, including France, have lodged a complaint against the American company about user privacy. According to them, the firm encourages consumers to “allow extensive and invasive treatment” of their personal data when creating their account. The giant thus violates the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
“It only takes one simple step to let Google monitor and exploit everything you do. If you want privacy-friendly settings, you have to go through a longer process and a mix of unclear and misleading options”, explained Ursula Pach, Deputy Director General of BEUC. The associations of three other countries (Denmark, the Netherlands, Sweden) also addressed their national regulators on the practices of the giant. For its part, the German organization VZBV sent a warning letter to Google.
A problem of ease and clarity
Concretely, when a consumer creates an account, he is invited to define the parameters relating to the collection of data for browsing habits, YouTube history and the personalization of advertisements. While a single step allows him to activate all of these settings, he does not have the option of deactivating them with a single click. Indeed, five steps in ten clicks are necessary if users want to activate the most privacy-friendly options. Moreover, they face “unclear, incomplete and misleading information” and Google makes them realize that they’re giving up benefits like more relevant search results, or even much-needed features.
Added to this is the fact that consumers may be required to create an account for the use of certain Company products and services. This is, for example, necessary for those who buy smartphones using its Android operating system, which is almost 7 out of 10 devices in the world. “Only this registration allows them to access the services it offers (such as Chrome, YouTube, Google Search, Gmail, Google Maps or the Google Play Store”indicates the French association UFC-Que Choisir in a press release.
Faced with these accusations, Google claimed that the options offered to users when creating an account “are clearly presented and easy to understand”. A company spokesperson said these were developed “Based on extensive research findings, and according to guidelines from data protection authorities, as well as user testing feedback”. However, this is not the first time that Google has been accused of not respecting the law for its practices in relation to users. At the end of December last, the Cnil imposed a fine of 150 million dollars on it for not having made the refusal of cookies as simple as their acceptance, thus encouraging Internet users to favor the ease of the “I accept” button. The French authority also criticized him for a lack of informational clarity.