EU Privacy Complaint Takes Aim At Google’s ‘Shared Endorsements’ Ad Content

Google EuropePrivacy advocate Simon Davies has filed a formal privacy complaint in 14 European countries against Google’s expanded “Shared Endorsements” ad program. The “Privacy Surgeon,” as Davies calls himself, lodged the complaint today with data protection regulators in Norway, Sweden, Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Spain, Italy, Slovenia, Austria, Belgium, Germany, Lithuania, Netherlands and Poland.

The complaint argues that Google’s Shared Endorsements violates a range of specific provisions of the “Article 29″ data protection rules and that the opt-out aspect places too much of a burden on consumers to understand Google’s privacy policy and its implications.

The complaint also references and objects to Google’s consolidated privacy policy, on which Shared Endorsements is partly constructed. The integrated Google privacy policy has been the subject of ongoing EU investigations and now may bring potential fines, with Germany recently issuing a court ruling that the policy violated consumer privacy rights.

The Davies complaint also takes aim at the recently imposed and unpopular Google+ YouTube comments requirement. And it makes the sweeping claim that European privacy rules are a basic “threat to Google’s business model”:

Google cannot afford to stop collecting data about its users. That is why Google’s actions continuously come into conflict with European (and U.S.) privacy laws. Unlike other types of regulation, privacy laws are not just a matter for Google’s administrators to follow. By limiting how much data Google can collect, how long Google can store data, and the purposes for which Google can use the data, European data protection laws pose a threat to Google’s business model. Put differently, Google’s business model is explicitly at odds with European principles of privacy protection. The result is a string of infringements that stretch back over the last half-decade, such as the Street View WiFi interception, hacking of the Safari privacy preferences, Google Analytics, Google Apps and the move to a Single Privacy Policy.

European privacy rules are more stringent than in the US. However US Senator Ed Markey (D-MA) has asked the Federal Trade Commission to take a closer look at Google’s “Shared Endorsements” ads, which may prompt a formal investigation.

The complaint seeks the suspension of Shared Endorsements in Google ads pending the outcome of any EU investigation.

It’s a safe bet that EU privacy regulators will take this complaint seriously. It’s unclear whether it can or will be folded into the ongoing Google privacy policy investigation or whether this complaint will mark the opening of a new one.

Related Topics: Channel: Industry | Google | Google: Critics | Google: Legal | Google: YouTube | Legal: Privacy | Top News


About The Author: is a Contributing Editor at Search Engine Land. He writes a personal blog Screenwerk, about SoLoMo issues and connecting the dots between online and offline. He also posts at Internet2Go, which is focused on the mobile Internet. Follow him @gsterling.

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