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Google Faces Privacy Complaint from Austrian Advocacy Group

 |  June 13, 2024

Alphabet Inc.’s Google is facing a new privacy complaint from the Austrian advocacy group NOYB. The complaint, filed on Thursday, alleges that Google has been tracking users of its Chrome web browser without proper consent, an issue that has already drawn the attention of EU antitrust regulators.

Google is currently in the process of phasing out third-party cookies, which advertisers use to track consumer behavior, in a bid to enhance user privacy. As part of this transition, Google introduced the Privacy Sandbox—a suite of tools designed to prevent covert tracking techniques and limit data sharing with third parties. These tools aim to allow developers and publishers to measure ad performance without tracking individual users. Chrome users are given the option to enable the ad privacy feature to avoid being tracked.

However, NOYB, short for “none of your business,” claims that this feature effectively allows Google to continue tracking users within the browser. The advocacy group asserts that under European Union privacy rules, Google should first obtain explicit user consent for such tracking.

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“People thought they were agreeing to a privacy feature, but were tricked into accepting Google’s first-party ad tracking. Consent has to be informed, transparent, and fair to be legal. Google has done the exact opposite,” said Max Schrems, founder of NOYB, in a statement to Reuters. NOYB filed the complaint with the Austrian data protection authority on Thursday.

NOYB has a history of filing complaints against major tech companies for alleged privacy violations, targeting both EU and national privacy watchdogs.

In response, a Google spokesperson defended the company’s practices, emphasizing the enhanced privacy protections integrated into the Privacy Sandbox APIs. “This complaint fails to recognize the significant privacy protections we’ve built into the Privacy Sandbox APIs, including the Topics API, and the meaningful privacy improvement they provide over today’s technologies, including third-party cookies,” said the spokesperson.

Source: Reuters