Google could face EU fines for tracking users

By Clyde Hughes
Seven countries have complained that Google's location data violated the privacy of users. Photo by John Angelillo/UPI
Seven countries have complained that Google's location data violated the privacy of users. Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo

Nov. 27 (UPI) -- Google has been accused in Europe Tuesday of "deceptive" practices where the location of users are tracked, a charge that could lead to fines against the global tech giant.

Seven countries have complained that location data violated the privacy of users, charging that it could reveal the users' religious beliefs, political activity, health or sexual orientation. Consumer groups in those countries asked the regulators in the European Union to take action against Google.


The BEUC, the European Consumer Organization, issued a statement saying that based on new research in Norway, Google lacked "valid legal grounds" to process the location data without the consent of the users.

"When we carry our phones, Google is recording where we go, down to which floor we are on and how we are moving," the Norwegian Consumer Council report stated. "This can be combined with other information about us, such as what we search for, and what websites we visit. Such information can in turn be used for things such as targeted advertising meant to affect us when we are receptive or vulnerable."

Privacy experts said that the location tracking did not respect the General Data Protection Regulation, tough new regulations for companies that gather personal data that the European Union put into effect in May.


The countries involved in the complaint include the Czech Republic, Greece, Norway, Slovenia and Sweden, The Netherlands and Denmark.

A Google spokesman told The Telegraph that its Location History is turned on by default and users can alter and even delete it at any time.

"If it's on, it helps improve services like predicted traffic on your commute," the spokesman continued. "If you pause it, we make clear that -- depending on your individual phone and app settings -- we might still collect and use location data to improve your Google experience. We're constantly working to improve our controls, and we'll be reading this report closely to see if there are things we can take on board."

The possible privacy violations come as Google reportedly announced that it was purchasing an 800,000 square foot office campus in Mountain View, Calif. For $1 billion.

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