Google’s advertising strapline of “Do the right thing” could not be less apposite when it comes to the tech giant’s privacy record, with confirmation that the Irish Data Protection Commission has joined the regulatory stampede to bring the company to heel.
The DPC says the statutory probe is in response to “a number of complaints from various consumer organisations across the EU, in which concerns were raised with regard to Google’s processing of location data”.
The issues relate to the legality of Google’s processing of location data and the transparency surrounding that processing, with the DPC setting out to establish whether Google has a valid legal basis for its actions.
The Irish regulator has a busy intray; this will be its 23rd statutory GDPR inquiry into multinational tech giants; more than half relate to Facebook, eight directly focus on the main site, two for WhatsApp and one into Instagram. It also has three probes into Apple, and one each into LinkedIn, Quantcast, Verizon and Tinder. In total, it more than 65 official investigations under way.
Surprisingly, this is only the Irish DPC’s second statutory probe into Google, however.
Other authorities have not been quite so lenient. The company is facing a full-blown investigation – and with it potential sanctions – from the UK Competition & Markets Authority over its digital ad market duopoly with Facebook.
Meanwhile, the European Commission has launched a preliminary inquiry over whether Google and Facebook’s data practices comply with EU law. Both companies are also the subject of antitrust investigations across more than 47 states in the US.
In the past 18 months alone, Google has been battling fines on all fronts, including a €50m (£44m) penalty for GDPR failings from the French data protection regulator and three separate penalties from the EC; €1.49bn (£1.28bn) for abusing its monopoly in online advertising, €4.3bn (£3.7bn) over anti-trust practices for its Android mobile operating system, and €2.4bn (£2.1bn) for promoting its own shopping service over rivals.
However, the company has yet to pay out a single penny – apart from millions in legal fees – and is appealing all four penalties.
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