Personal data – Stop Google’s intrusion into our lives – President’s note

Have you ever had the confusing feeling that Google knows you better than ever? Do you consider that it does not give you the means to properly control the information collected concerning your private life? If so, you are far from alone. UFC-Que Choisir and its European counterparts have received numerous signals attesting to the American giant’s failures to apply the GDPR, this European regulation aimed at protecting our personal data in the digital world.

Google is pushing users to unknowingly install its surveillance system, when creating their account. They are then invited to define the parameters relating to the collection of data concerning their browsing habits, their YouTube history and the personalization of advertisements. This is an essential step for the 7 out of 10 consumers who buy a new smartphone using the Android system. Only this registration allows them to access the services it offers (such as Chrome, YouTube, Google search, Gmail, Google Maps or the Google Play Store).

At this moment, two options are offered: do we want to use the express one-step registration process or do we have the time, the desire, the energy to select the manual customization in 5 steps? If you opt for the first, which is admittedly upset, you will have no choice but to activate all the settings that feed Google’s surveillance activities with one click.

If you prefer to refuse certain parameters and opt for the second, which subtly implies that it would be more respectful of your privacy, you will have to determine “the parameters to activate and deactivate in order to personalize your experience”no less than 10 clicks will be required.

You will then be faced with a biased interface, unclear language and misleading choices. You will never know exactly for what purposes your data will be provided. Beware if you feel like reconsidering your decision in order to choose the most privacy-friendly options. Google will make you understand that then you give up advantages, even functions that are simply essential (“you will no longer see the most relevant search results”…).

In other words, the reality is that Google makes every effort to induce consumers to consent to extensive and invasive processing of their personal data. This with a view to being able to better follow him, define his profile and overwhelm him with targeted advertising without having given his free and informed consent.

With considerable influence over all market players, it is inconceivable that this digital giant could continue to use this scheme and violate the GDPR. This is the reason why today, within the framework of an action under the aegis of the European Bureau of Consumers (Beuc) (1), the UFC-Que Choisir decided to forward a consumer’s complaint to the CNIL, so that Google is sanctioned and stops these practices. In 2019, the Cnil had already imposed a fine of 50 million euros against Google for non-compliance with the GDPR. It may seem like a lot. In truth for Google, which made $76 billion in profits last year, that’s barely a mosquito bite. Our action as part of a European approach, today the most relevant level, should lead, we all hope, to truly effective decisions making it possible to make the application of the GDPR effective.

(1) dTest (Czech Republic), Forbrukerrådet (Norway), EKPIZO and KEPKA (Greece), UFC-Que Choisir (France) and ZPS (Slovenia) have filed a complaint with their data protection authority. Verbraucherzentrale Bundesverband – vzbv (Germany) sent an alert letter to Google, a first step before possibly filing a complaint. Consumentenbond (Netherlands), Forbrugerrådet Tænk (Denmark) and Sveriges Konsumenter (Sweden) have written to their national authorities to alert them to Google’s practices.

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