Google Faces Multiple GDPR Complaints Over Location Tracking

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I spy with my little eye? Seven European consumer groups file GDPR complaints against Google’s location tracking

Google is being accused of misleading about location tracking, after consumer groups from seven European nations asked their privacy regulators to take action against the search engine giant.

The consumer groups from the Netherlands, Poland, Czech Republic, Greece, Norway, Slovenia and Sweden, have all filed GDPR complaints against Google’s location tracking, according to Reuters.

They allege that Google is tracking the movements of millions of users in breach of the European Union’s new privacy law.

Location tracking

Google of course is already facing a lawsuit in the United States for allegedly tracking phone users regardless of privacy settings.

That lawsuit was filed after an investigation by the Associated Press found that a number of Google services running on Android and Apple devices determine the user’s location and store it, even when Google’s “Location History” setting is switched off.

And now the Europeans are wanting to join the party after filings from a number of consumer groups, all of which are part of the European Consumer Organisation (BEUC).

This umbrella organisation announced this week that based on research by BEUC’s Norwegian member Forbrukerrådet, seven consumer groups are filing GDPR complaints against Google with their national data protection authorities.

“Location data can reveal a lot about people, including religious beliefs (going to places of worship), political leanings (going to demonstrations), health conditions (regular hospital visits) and sexual orientation (visiting certain bars),” said the BEUC.

The report shows that Google uses various tricks and practices to ensure users enable these tracking features and does not give them straightforward information about what this effectively entails,” it said.

“These practices are not compliant with the GDPR, as Google lacks a valid legal ground for processing the data in question. In particular, the report shows that users’ consent provided under these circumstances is not freely given.”

GDPR fine?

Under the new GDPR rules, firms can face financial penalties of up to 4 percent of global revenues for companies that break the rules.

This means that potentially Google could be exposed to a hefty fine if found guilty.

“Location History is turned off by default, and you can edit, delete, or pause it at any time,” a Google spokesman told Reuters. “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,” the spokesman added. “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,” he said.

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Author: Tom Jowitt
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