EU Queries News Publishers On Google Data Practices

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European Commission asks news publishers for details on how Google collects user data from their sites as it launches online ad competition probe

EU competition authorities have sent detailed questionnaires to news publishers as part of an ongoing preliminary probe into the way Google collects data on readers.

The European Commission said earlier this month its probe relates to areas including local search services, online advertising, online ad targeting services, login services and web browsers.

The questionnaire asks news publishers to explain how Google collects data on their users’ activity in order to personalise advertisements, according to the Financial Times.

It asks them to describe “any agreements . . . based on which Google collects data from your company or is allowed to obtain data from users of your websites or apps”.

EU competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager.  European Commission
EU competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager.  European Commission

Online ad market

It asks them to give the scope, duration and rationale for their deals with Google, and to detail whether Google provides any technical support or compensation in exchange fo the data, the FT said.

The questionnaire also asks news publishers to give details on how they themselves collect and use data, including data collected when users are setting up accounts on their websites and when they are signing up for a newsletter.

The European Commission formally announced the probe earlier this month, a few days after Margrethe Vestager began her second five-year mandate as competition commissioner.

Vestager is now also the Commission’s head of European digital policy.

At the time the Commission said it was opening an investigation into the data practices of both Google and Facebook, looking at how the data is used for advertising purposes.

Data rules

“The Commission has sent out questionnaires as part of a preliminary investigation into Google’s and Facebook’s data practices,” the Commission said at the time.  “These investigations concern the way data is gathered, processed, used and monetised, including for advertising purposes.”

It added that the preliminary probe is ongoing.

The probe may lead to the Commission opening new cases against Google and to more stringent rules on the way large tech firms use data from other companies.

In July the Commission opened a formal investigation into Amazon and whether the company is complying with rules involving the way it handles data from independent retailers.

Google said it uses data to make services more useful and to show relevant advertising, and said users can manage, delete or transfer their data at any time.

Facebook said it uses data to tailor its apps and services.  Both companies said they are cooperating with the Commission’s investigation.

The Commission has levied more than 8 billion euros (£6.84bn) in fines on Google in recent years and has ordered it to change its business practices.

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