Google accused of manipulation to track users

Credit: CC0 Public Domain

Seven European consumer groups filed complaints against Google with national regulators Tuesday, accusing the internet giant of covertly tracking users' movements in violation of an EU regulation on data protection.

The cited a study by the Norwegian Consumer Council that concluded the Internet giant used "deceptive design and misleading information, which results in users accepting to be constantly tracked."

Council official Gro Mette Moen charged that "Google uses extremely detailed and comprehensive personal data without an appropriate judicial basis, and the data is acquired by means of manipulative techniques."

Complaints against Google were filed in the Czech Republic, Greece, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Slovenia and Sweden.

They are based on the EU's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which took effect in May.

Google is accused of tracking users' movements via its Location History and Web & App Activity applications, which are built into all Google accounts.

"For users of mobile phones with Android (operating systems), such as Samsung and Huawei phones, this tracking is particularly difficult to avoid," the Norwegian council noted.

According to the internet site Statcounter, almost 70 percent of European mobile phones run on the Android system.

"Location data can reveal a lot about a person: real time movements, frequently visited places, daily routines, interests, etc," the Norwegian complaint said.

"Constant tracking and aggregation of location data over time can be used to build very detailed profiles of individuals and to infer religious beliefs, political leanings, and sexual orientation, among other things," it added.

Monique Goyens, director general of The European Consumer Organisation said: "Google's data hunger is notorious but the scale with which it deceives its to track and monetise their every move is breathtaking.

"The situation is more than alarming. Smartphones are being used for spying on our every move."

The Dutch organisation Consumentenbond insisted that "this tracking must stop."

Google responded by saying that "Location History is turned off by default, and you can edit, delete, or pause it at any time. If it's on, it helps improve services like predicted traffic on your commute.

"If you pause it, we make clear that—depending on your individual phone and app settings—we might still collect and use location to improve your Google experience."

Explore further

Google sued for unwanted tracking of phone locations

© 2018 AFP

Citation: Google accused of manipulation to track users (2018, November 27) retrieved 18 August 2019 from
This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.

Feedback to editors

User comments

Nov 27, 2018
Ever since the last system update, every time I turn on my GPS, Google demands me to let it track me even though I've explicitly set my phone to use GPS only. It continuously nags me until I choose to allow it.

I decline every time, yet after the last update, they had secretly turned the WiFi search back on, which means Google tracks which wlan routers are close by even if I don't have wifi on. I had this disabled, they re-enabled it without my consent. Knowing which wifi networks are nearby lets them track me regardless of whether I have GPS on.

This is getting ridiculous to the point where I have to check all my settings weekly to make sure I haven't "consented" to anything again.

Likewise, I've stopped using Google search because every time after I clear my cookies, it demands me to "review my privacy settings", which amounts to Google demanding my consent to be tracked. The search does not work until I do, so I might as well not use it. I do not consent.

Nov 28, 2018
This comment has been removed by a moderator.

Dec 04, 2018
That is an easy one ... just use instead.
In many cases returned results at this search engine are far better then ones at Google and more usefull.
At least untill this engine start to track us too.
I agree with Eikka ... in a way like ... If a single person does such privacy violation, , he or she easilly ends up in jail, but what will happen to a corporation like Google ... except maybe paying a small fee of a few milion $, which is like pennies for them.
Such an action will help no one.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more