The Trans Atlantic Consumer Dialogue (TACD) forum sent a letter to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) asking for an investigation on Google pushing users to enable location tracking and not disclosing when location tracking is enabled by default.
“Location data and history can reveal in detail an individual’s lifestyle, daily routines and interests,” the TACD letter says. “Over time the data can be used to infer highly sensitive information such as religious beliefs, political views and sexual orientation.”
Furthermore, seven consumer groups filed complaints with their national Data Protection Authorities following a Norwegian Consumer Council (Forbrukerrådet) report which found out that Google is illegally processing location data and it might be violating EU's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
"The report published by Forbrukerrådet, entitled “Every Step You Take,” illustrates how Google is using deceptive design, misleading information and repeated pushing to manipulate Android users into allowing constant tracking of their movements," according to The European Consumer Organisation (BEUC).
The consumer groups that will file complaints to accuse Google of breaching the GDPR are Forbrukerrådet (Norway), Consumentenbond (The Netherlands), Ekpizo (Greece), dTest (Czech Republic), Zveza Potrošnikov Slovenije (Slovenia), Federacja Konsumentów (Poland), and Sveriges Konsumenter (Sweden).
Google is infringing on multiple GDPR basic principles say the complaints
According to BEUC, Google uses a multitude of practices and tricks to influence users into enabling location tracking via Android's Web & App Activity and Location History settings such as always-on background location history, hiding the default settings, providing misleading information, using deceptive click-flow, repeatedly asking users to enable location tracking, lacking granular choices, and bundling multiple services.
Given the number of measures put in place by Google to make sure that their users have location tracking and history enabled, BEUC says that users have very little to no choice besides providing the search giant with their location data.
The data Google collects from users who have location history and tracking turned on can be used for a wide range of purposes, advertising targeting being probably the most important one of them for Mountain View.
Google's location data practices highlighted in the complaints sent to EU watchdogs are against basic GDPR principles such as transparency, lawfulness, and fairness of processing says the BEUC.