Organizations from across Europe will file complaints against Google with their national data protection authorities alleging that Google is breaching the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in relation to how the company tracks its users’ location.
The European organizations are Forbrukerrådet (Norway), Consumentenbond (The Netherlands), Ekpizo (Greece), dTest (Czech Republic), Zveza Potrošnikov Slovenije (Slovenia), Federacja Konsumentów (Poland) and Sveriges Konsumenter (Sweden). Forbrugerrådet Tænk (Denmark) will report these practices to the Danish data protection body. German vzbv is considering an action for an injunction against Google because of its practices. The Transatlantic Consumer Dialogue will bring it to the attention of the Federal Trade Commission.
Google collects users' location data notably through the features 'location history' and 'web & app activity', which are integrated into all Google user accounts. The groups allege that Google uses various "tricks" and practices to ensure users have these features enabled without clearly explaining its "unfair" practices, leaving consumers in the dark about the use of their personal data. Additionally the groups claim that Google does not give consumers a real choice to opt out the submission of their location data, which is generally used for a wide range of purposes including targeted advertising.
Monique Goyens, Director General of The European Consumer Organisation, commented:
"Google’s data hunger is notorious but the scale with which it deceives its users to track and monetize their every move is breathtaking. Google is not respecting fundamental GDPR principles, such as the obligation to use data in a lawful, fair and transparent manner.
"Thanks to the GDPR, users should be in control of their personal data. Google’s deceptive practices are in breach of the spirit and the letter of this regulation. We need strong, coherent, enforcement of the rules. We can’t have companies pretending to comply but de facto circumventing the law.
"It can undoubtedly be useful to share your location data, for instance to find a restaurant when traveling. But the places we go to also reveal a lot about ourselves and our private life.
"The situation is more than alarming. Smartphones are being used for spying on our every move. This is not the digital society that European consumers want to live in.
"With today’s action to submit complaints with data protection authorities across Europe, we want to stop consumer exploitation and force those digital giants to finally accept their responsibility."
Google did not provide any comment.