European consumer protection authorities accuse Google of spying on its users

10 consumer protection authorities, including UFC-Que Choisir in France, have launched an action against Google under the coordination of the European Consumers’ Bureau (BEUC). Each filed an appeal with the competent authority of its country. For UFC-Que Choisir, it is the National Commission for Computing and Liberties (Cnil).

A complex system

The group accuses Google of using “misleading design, unclear language and misleading choices“when users create a Google account, explains Ursula Pachl, Deputy Director General of BEUC. By default, the system would be set up to force them to accept the collection and processing of their personal data. On the contrary, “to benefit from privacy-friendly settings“, “you have to go through a longer process and a mix of unclear and misleading options“.

However, creating an account is “an essential step for the 7 out of 10 consumers who buy a new smartphone using the Android system“, details Alain Bazot, president of UFC-Que Choisir. Indeed, “only this registration allows them to access the services it offers“, such as Chrome, YouTube, Gmail, Google Maps…

Be able to better target users

This is proof for the applicants that “Google makes every effort to encourage consumers to authorize extensive and invasive processing of their personal data“. His goal would be to “always better to follow him, define his profile and overwhelm him with targeted advertising without him having really given his free and enlightened consent“, as prescribed by the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

Google is a repeat offender“, retorts Ursula Pachl. She cites the complaints filed against her geolocation practices. A case that has yet to be decided by the Data Protection Commission (DPC), the equivalent of the National Commission for Computing and Freedoms (Cnil) in Ireland , regularly accused of inaction.”During this time, Google’s practices have not changed in essence. The tech giant still conducts ongoing consumer tracking and profiling and its practices set the tone for the rest of the market“, she regrets.

UFC-Que Choisir demands a heavy fine

The Cnil has already fined Google 50 million euros at the beginning of 2019 for not having sufficiently informed users of the collection and processing of their personal data. UFC-Que Choisir hopes that this time it will opt for a heavier sanction. “In truth for Google, which made $76 billion in profits last year, it’s barely a mosquito bite.“, reacts Alain Bazot.

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