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Google under fire as German watchdog probes user date usage

An antitrust watchdog in Germany has issued a preliminary statement of objections over Google’s data processing terms and said it’s currently planning to require the tech giant to provide users with more choice over what it does with their information.


Techcrunch reported that the Federal Cartel Office had been investigating Google’s Terms and Conditions for processing user data since May 2021.


The issue is with how Google collects and connects user data across multiple services and whether it offers users sufficient choice over its profiling of them for ad targeting.


The watchdog said, “The Bundeskartellamt has reached the preliminary conclusion that, based on the current terms, users are not given sufficient choice as to whether and to what extent they agree to this far-reaching processing of their data across services. The choices offered so far, if any, are, in particular, not sufficiently transparent and too general,” the FCO writes in a press release.


“According to the Bundeskartellamt’s current assessment, sufficient choice particularly requires that users are able to limit the processing of data to the specific service used. In addition, they also have to be able to differentiate between the purposes for which the data are processed.


“Moreover, the choices offered must not be devised in a way that makes it easier for users to consent to the processing of data across services than not to consent to this. General and indiscriminate data retention and processing across services without a specific cause as a preventive measure, including for security purposes, is not permissible either without giving users any choice. Therefore, the Bundeskartellamt is currently planning to oblige the company to change the choices offered.”


In a recent statement, the watchdog’s president, Andreas Mundt, added, “Google’s business model relies heavily on the processing of user data. Due to its established access to relevant data gathered from a large number of different services, Google enjoys a strategic advantage over other companies.


“Google’s practices must be measured against the requirements under the new competition rules for large digital companies. The company has to give users sufficient choice as to how their data are processed.”

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