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Google targeted in fresh EU consumer groups' privacy complaints

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
The Google sign is shown on one of the company's office buildings in Irvine, California, US, October 20, 2020. (Reuters)

Consumer rights groups in Europe have filed a new series of privacy complaints against Google over what they call its deceptive sign-up account process.

The groups argue that the process steers users into agreeing to extensive and invasive processing of their data.

“Regardless of the path the consumer chooses, Google’s data processing is un-transparent and unfair, with consumers’ personal data being used for purposes which are vague and far reaching,” the complainants argued in a press release.

The groups in France, Greece, the Czech Republic, Norway and Slovenia have taken their complaints to their data protection authorities, European consumer organization BEUC said on Thursday.

BEUC also said the German consumer body had sent a letter to the advertising giant that could lead to a civil lawsuit, while consumer agencies in the Netherlands, Denmark and Sweden have written to their privacy regulators and alerted them about Google's practices.

"The language Google uses at every step of the registration process is unclear, incomplete, and misleading," BEUC said.

"Google also frames the more privacy-friendly options as missing out on advantages.

"This prevents the consumer from taking an informed decision when they make their choices and results in unfair, non-transparent and unlawful processing of their personal data," it said.

Google said, when opening an account, users can choose from different options.

"These options are clearly labelled and designed to be simple to understand. We have based them on extensive research efforts and guidance from DPAs (data protection authorities) and feedback from testers. We are committed to ensuring these choices are clear and simple," a spokesperson said.

Google has already been fined over 8 billion euros ($8.4 billion) by EU antitrust regulators and is currently the focus of two ongoing antitrust investigations.

Now, the company could face fines worth up to 2% of its global turnover if found guilty of breaching EU privacy rules.

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