Consumer Organisations Claim That Signing Up For Google Is A “Fast Track To Surveillance”

A consortium of ten European consumer organisations is suing Google over the company’s account sign-up process. A Google account is required to use many of Google’s goods and services.

The organisation, however, claims that the sign-up process leads users toward options that capture more data.

Google told the BBC that it appreciated the opportunity to discuss the issue with consumer organisations.

Consumer trust is based on honesty and openness, according to the corporation, and it has “staked our future success on providing increasingly simpler, more accessible controls and giving customers clearer options.”

“And, just as important, doing more with less data”.

The European Consumer Organisation (BEUC), which coordinates the alliance, believes Google’s registration language is “unclear, incomplete, and deceptive,” prompting many consumers to choose less privacy-friendly options.

As a result, “tens of millions of Europeans were put on a fast track to monitoring when they signed up for a Google account,” according to BEUC.

According to the consumer organisation, sign-up is the important point at which Google allows consumers to pick how their account will function.

However, it claims that the simplest one-step “express personalisation” procedure leaves users with account settings that “fuel Google’s surveillance activities.”

Furthermore, the consumer organisation claims that Google does not give consumers the opportunity to turn all settings “off” with a single click.

According to BEUC, it just takes five clicks and ten steps to disable the trackers Google wants to set on a new account, which relate to browser and app activity, YouTube history, and customised advertising on their account.

“It only takes one simple action to let Google watch and exploit everything you do,” said Ursula Pachl, deputy director general of the BEUC. If you want to profit from privacy-friendly settings, you must go through a longer process with a slew of ambiguous and deceptive alternatives.

Pachl added: “In short, when you create a Google account, you are subjected to surveillance by design and by default. Instead, privacy protection should be the default and easiest choice for consumers.”

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) of the European Union compels platforms to provide consumers with privacy by design and by default. Google, on the other hand, claims that all options are clearly labelled and designed to be obvious and simple to grasp.

According to the company, they are based on considerable study, regulatory advice, and testing.

It told the BBC “People should be able to understand how data is generated from their use of internet services. If they don’t like it, they should be able to do something about it.”

BEUC members in the Czech Republic, Norway, Greece, France, and Slovenia have filed GDPR complaints against Google with their local data protection authorities, and groups in Sweden, Denmark, and the Netherlands have expressed their concerns to their respective authorities.

Google has received a warning letter from the Federation of German Consumer Organizations.

The BBC has been informed that a previous probe sparked by BEUC has made progress while this fresh action is launched.

Members of the BEUC filed a similar complaint against Google in 2018, arguing that the tech giant violated General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) standards by tracking user location.

In July 2019, Ireland’s Data Protection Commission was named the lead authority on the complaints.

The commission serves as the principal data protection authority for Google and a number of other technology businesses with European headquarters in Ireland.

In February 2020, it initiated an investigation into Google’s usage and gathering of location data.

But Pachl said, “it is more than three years since we filed complaints against Google’s location-tracking practices and the Irish Data Protection Commissioner in charge has still not issued a decision on the case. Meanwhile Google’s practices have not changed in essence.”

However, Ireland’s Deputy Data Protection Commissioner, Graham Doyle, told the BBC that “our inquiry into Google and location data is far advanced, and we anticipate to send a draught judgement to our colleague Data Protection Authorities in the next couple of months for their comments.”

(Adapted from BBC.com)

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