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Noyb: ‘Google is tricking users to consent with first-party ad tracking’

Google’s Privacy Sandbox is advertised as an improvement over the current practices of third-party tracking. In reality however, the tracking is now being done within the browser by Google itself, without the informed consent from users.

Privacy organization Noyb has therefore filed a complaint with the Datenschutzbehörde, the Austrian data protection agency (DPA).

Google has been promising for years that it will make an end to third-party tracking via its web browser Chrome. To make sure its revenue model stays intact, Google came up with the Privacy Sandbox.

With its Privacy Sandbox, the search engine mogul can still offer relevant advertisements, and simultaneously guarantee the privacy and anonymity of internet users. They are no longer closely tracked by obtaining their browsing history and analyzing tracking cookies. Instead, Google is going to offer personalized ads based on users’ interest for one specific week.

Noyb: ‘Google is lying to its users’

Google’s internal browser tracking was introduced via a pop-up, saying ‘Turn on ad privacy feature’ after opening the Chrome browser. Users who chose the option ‘Turn it on’, thinking Google would no longer monitor their online activities, were lied to. In a letter addressed to Noyb, the tech company admitted that turning on Google’s ad privacy feature would be considered consent to tracking.

“Google has simply lied to its users. 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,” Noyb chairman Max Schrems says in a statement.

The Austrian privacy organization claims that Google’s main argument for the Privacy Sandbox is that it’s less invasive than third-party tracking. “If you merely steal less money from people than another thief, you can’t call yourself a ‘wealth protection agent’. But that is basically what Google is doing here,” Schrems responds.

Noyb wants DPA to stop Google’s data collecting practices

Noyb accuses Google of wanting to take full control over the analysis of the online behaviour of its users. Chrome tracks every website you visit in order to generate a list of your interests, sending it to advertisers for advertising topics.

Schrems: “People are increasingly critical of the fact that big tech companies are making billions from invasive ad tracking technologies. Instead of actually improving the situation, Google is responding with a kind of unlawful ‘privacy washing’ by introducing a new tracking system.”

According to Noyb, Google doesn’t meet the requirements for free consent under the GDPR. Therefore, Noyb is asking the Datenschutzbehörde to order Google to stop the processing of data collected on the basis of invalid consent. The privacy advocates also want the DPA to impose an effective, proportionate and dissuasive fine.

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