BEUC: EU consumer groups oppose Google's 'monitoring system'

Ten consumer groups around BEUC accuse Google of unfairly manipulating consumers.

It’s about Google’s Android operating system and its user creation. The groups coordinated by the European Consumers’ Union (BEUC) criticize that Google forces users to create a Google account on their new Android phone and unnecessarily complicates personalization if no account is desired.

Massive surveillance by Google account

The Deputy Director General of BEUC, Ursula Pachl, warns in clear words:

It takes just one simple step for Google to monitor and evaluate everything you do. If you want to benefit from privacy-friendly settings, you’ll have to navigate a lengthy process and a mix of unclear and misleading options.

70 % of smartphones worldwide use Android

For Pachl, the problem lies in the presentation. For example, users could set up their profiles via an express function – but as expected, the results are not very privacy-friendly. The consumer groups and BEUC call it ‘home surveillance’. In comparison, users need five steps and ten clicks to at least partially escape surveillance hell.

BEUC and its members are still aware that the information of the registration process is very unclear, are incomplete and misleading. As a result, consumers could make decisions that they no longer understand in the larger context. It would be important here, because it is about personal data.

More privacy-friendly variant according to BEUC much less attractive

The consumer groups around BEUC also punish Google’s “more privacy-friendly” variant. This is too unsightly and too expensive. The user is prevented from making a free and informed choice. Google also presents the refusal to create a Google account as a “missing of benefits”, which is intended to further manipulate users. Google tracks its users across all Google services, including Chrome, Gmail, YouTube and Google Maps. This is also why the registration process is so important for the tech giant.

Google doesn’t want to hear about the BEUC allegations

Google, on the other hand, sees no problem in its business practices. A Google spokesman told Euractiv that the options were designed after extensive research in close collaboration with website testers.

We welcome the opportunity to engage with European consumer advocates and regulators on this important issue. People should be able to understand how data is generated from their use of internet services. If they don’t agree with this, they should be able to do something about it.

The national consumer groups around the BEUC submitted the complaint to the relevant data protection authorities in the Czech Republic, France, Norway, Greece and Slovakia . In Germany, a warning letter was sent to Google. This could possibly be the first step to a lawsuit. According to the GDPR, the case must be referred to Ireland. Google has its European headquarters there.

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