For the first time Google is under threat of a serious fine for violating the European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), Reuters report. Consumer groups from the Netherlands, Poland, the Czech Republic, Greece, Norway, Slovenia and Sweden filed complaints for “deceptive practices” regarding the location tracking option, which according to them tricks people to share their current location without giving their consent.
On Tuesday, the Norwegian Consumer Council released findings that it is particularly hard for users to avoid Google’s tracking location option on their Android smartphones, for which Google provides the operating system.
Back in August 2018, the Associated Press reported that Google can track users’ location even if their “Location History” option is turned off on their devices. If you do this, you prevent Google from adding your movements to its Timeline feature. However, you can still be tracked by various application – e.g. Google Maps, weather updates, and browser searches. The only way to escape tracking is to turn off “Web and App Activity” in addition to “Location History”.
Monique Goyens, the director-general of the European Consumer Organisation (BEUC) commented the case:
“These unfair practices leave consumers in the dark about the use of their personal data. They are not compliant with the General Data Protection Regulation (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.”
Google’s defensive response followed:
“Location History is turned off by default, and you can edit, delete, or pause it at any time. 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.”
GDPR came into force in May 2018 with the aim to guarantee users greater control over their personal data. The legislation‘s most powerful tool makes possible imposing fines to companies up to 4% of their global annual revenue. For the time being, it is unclear whether the countries’ request will result in a fine for Google. But if their fault is confirmed, the fine would be over $4 billion, based on its 2017 filings.