Germany’s competition police on Wednesday called on Google to better secure its users’ consent to the processing of their data via its various services in a “preliminary” ruling that could lead to coercive measures against the US giant. . “The company must give users enough choice about how their data is handled,” Anti-Cartel Office President Andreas Mundt said in a statement. While currently only a “warning,” not binding, enforcement action could be taken against Google “within the year” if nothing changes, according to the office.
Specifically, the supervisory authority accuses Google of “accumulating a large amount of data from its various services”, such as “Google Search, YouTube, Google Play, Google Maps”. These operations allow it to create “highly detailed profiles” of its users, which it can then sell to advertisers. But users “do not have sufficient choice to decide whether they agree to this extensive processing of their data between services”, according to the office. Indeed, the options currently offered are “too little transparent and global”. For the competition policeman, users must be able to limit the processing of their data “to a single service”, or “depending on its purpose”. Nor must it be “easier” for users to consent to “inter-service” processing of their data than to refuse. Which is currently the case according to the office.
In a press release sent to AFP, Google assured “to continue (its) constructive dialogue with the German competition authority to respond to their concerns”. “Google is expected to conduct its business responsibly” by meeting “regulators’ expectations,” the company added. This “warning” is part of a procedure initiated by the German antitrust against Google at the beginning of last year in application of a new law that entered into force in 2021. This, in particular, allows for immediate measures to be taken to prevent certain anti-competitive practices by companies in a situation of market dominance, which is the case with Google, according to the competition police officer. Under this text, investigations were launched against Facebook, Amazon and Google. They are part of a context of offensive against the American digital giants in recent years in several European countries and by the EU authorities, who call on these companies to strengthen their regulation.