Location Tracking Leads to Multiple GDPR Complaints Against Google

A new data privacy complaint against Google has been submitted by a group of EU-based consumer watchdogs. It was alleged that Google violated the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) by recording internet users’ locations and using the information for ad-targeting campaigns.

Under GDPR, it is important that permission to process information is given in a way that is specific, well informed and that the consent is freely provided.

The group submitted its GDPR complaint following the findings of an Associated Press investigation of several Google services running on Apple and Android devices, which determine the user’s location and retain it even if a user does not enable Google’s “Location History” setting.

The Norwegian Consumer Council is one of the complainants. Acting head of NCC, Gro Mette Moen, stated that Google is recording our location including the exact floor we are on and direction faced through our phones. The recorded information may also include search queries and the sites we go to. Such data can be employed for targeted advertising intended to influence decisions.

If Google is determined to have recorded such information without obtaining consent a sizable penalty could be issued for non-compliance with GDPR. The maximum penalty could be as much as €20 million or 4% of yearly global revenue, whichever is greater. For Google, that fine could be massive.

In response to the complaints, a Google spokesperson stated that the default setting for “Location History” is turned off. Users can modify, remove, or pause it when they want. If it’s turned on, it can help enhance services such as estimating commute traffic. When paused, Google makes it clear that some location data may still be collected and used to improve Google services (this depends on the phone and application settings). Google said it continuously enhances its services and will take the information detailed in the complaints into account.

This is just one of several complaints filed against Google since GDPR became effective. Because of other complaints, like Internet browser Brave’s complaint, Google is discontinuing its social media platform, Google+. Google is not the only one faced with GDPR complaints. Facebook, Instagram and Twitter have also been accused of GDPR violations by various individuals and agencies throughout the EU.