Google Targeted in Fresh EU Consumer Groups' Privacy Complaints

Alphabet unit Google has been targeted by a French consumer group and its peers in complaints to privacy watchdogs over its vast trove of users’ personal data harvested via their Google accounts, European consumer organisation BEUC said on Thursday.

In addition to the French consumer group, others in Greece, the Czech Republic, Norway and Slovenia have taken their gripes to their data protection authorities, BEUC said.

It said the German consumer body had sent a warning letter to Google that could lead to a civil lawsuit, while consumer agencies in the Netherlands, Denmark and Sweden had written to their privacy regulators alerting them about Google’s practices.

BEUC said the issue was Google’s account sign-up process.

“The language Google uses at every step of the registration process is unclear, incomplete, and misleading,” the group said.

“Google also frames the more privacy-friendly options as missing out on advantages. This prevents the consumer from taking an informed decision when they make their choices and results in unfair, non-transparent and unlawful processing of their personal data,” it said.

In previous privacy complaints, Google has said users can edit, delete or pause settings and that it also make clear to users that it collects their data to improve their services.

Google, which has been penalised more than 8 billion euros ($8.4 billion) by EU antitrust regulators and the focus of two ongoing antitrust investigations, could face fines up to 2% of its global turnover if found guilty of breaching EU privacy rules.

Some of the agencies complained about Google’s tracking of users to their privacy enforcers four years ago but have yet to see any action being taken. They aim to ramp up the pressure on regulators with the latest complaints.

($1 = 0.9534 euros)

BRUSSELS (Reuters)