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Google faces action for “subjecting users to surveillance by default”

Ten European consumer organizations are taking action against Google over its account sign-up procedure, which deceives users to encourage “extensive and invasive” data processing, the coalition claims.

The European Consumer Organisation (BEUC,) responsible for coordinating the consumer coalition of 46 organizations, accused Google of “using deceptive design, unclear language, and misleading choices” during the sign-up process to collect extra amounts of data.

Calling Google a “repeat offender,” the coalition says that the tech giant is unfairly pushing users towards its surveillance system.

“Contrary to what Google claims about protecting consumers’ privacy, tens of millions of Europeans have been placed on a fast track to surveillance when they signed up to a Google account…In short, when you create a Google account, you are subjected to surveillance by design and by default,” Ursula Pachl, Deputy Director General of the BEUC said.

While a Google sign-up can be a voluntary process, it is often a requirement for using the company’s products, including Google’s Android system and the Google Play Store, which is used by 7 in 10 phones worldwide.

“Signup is the critical point at which Google makes users indicate their ‘choices’ about how their Google account will operate. With only one step (“Express personalization”), the consumer activates all the account settings that feed Google’s surveillance activities. Google does not provide consumers with the option to turn all settings ‘off’ in one click,” the press release explains.

In order to opt for more privacy-friendly settings, users need to head to Manual personalization, which involves all the same issues surrounding “unclear, incomplete, and misleading information,” according to BEUC. Generally, this option is intentionally presented by Google as unattractive, which encourages consumers to make uninformed decisions about their privacy.

With many companies depending on Google for their operations, BEUC thinks it is crucial to prevent the tech giant from exploiting its position by subjecting users to unlawful surveillance.

“The tech giant still carries out continuous tracking and profiling of consumers and its practices set the tone for the rest of the market. We need swift action from the authorities because having one of the biggest players ignoring the GDPR is unacceptable,’ Ursula Pachl stated.

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