Multiple European Union consumer groups have accused tech giant Google of violating EU privacy laws by covertly tracking user’s movements.
Seven different European consumer groups filed complaints against Google with national regulators this week in the Czech Republic, Greece, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Slovenia and Sweden. The complaints claimed that the tech firm violated GDPR privacy laws by tracking users movements, referencing a study by the Norwegian Consumer Council which claimed that Google used “deceptive design and misleading information, which results in users accepting to be constantly tracked,” Phys.org reports.
Gro Mette Moen, an official from the Norwegian Consumer Council, claimed that “Google uses extremely detailed and comprehensive personal data without an appropriate judicial basis, and the data is acquired by means of manipulative techniques.” The E.U. consumer groups claim that Google is tracking users movements via their Location History and Web & App Activity applications, all of which are linked to their Google accounts.
The Norwegian council noted: “For users of mobile phones with Android (operating systems), such as Samsung and Huawei phones, this tracking is particularly difficult to avoid.” Due to the wide use of the Google Android mobile operating system across Europe, with almost 70 percent of mobile phones in Europe running on the system, Google can use location tracking to gain a large amount of information on users.
“Constant location tracking and aggregation of location data over time can be used to build very detailed profiles of individuals and to infer religious beliefs, political leanings, and sexual orientation, among other things,” the Norwegian council noted.
The director general of The European Consumer Organisation, Monique Goyens, stated: “Google’s data hunger is notorious but the scale with which it deceives its users to track and monetise their every move is breathtaking. The situation is more than alarming. Smartphones are being used for spying on our every move.”
Google responded to these claims by stating: “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.”
Google was previously fined 2.42 billion euro (2.72 billion U.S. dollars) by E.U. officials for breaching antitrust rules with the company’s online shopping service. The ruling stated that Google was taking advantage of its market dominance in online searches, if it is found that Google has once again breached EU privacy laws the company could face more harsh fines and even tougher regulation.