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EU consumer watchdogs demand action against Google location tracking

"This is not the digital society that European consumers want to live in."

Google maps app is seen on an android mobile phone
The European Consumer Organisation (BEUC) says Google uses "various tricks and practices" to make sure location tracking features are enabled.
SOPA Images

Consumer groups in seven EU countries on Tuesday sought action against Google for allegedly breaching privacy laws by tracking people's movements.

The complaints from groups in Norway, the Netherlands, Greece, the Czech Republic, Slovenia, Poland and Sweden say the search giant's location tracking is violating the General Data Protection Regulation, based on Norwegian research.

The European Consumer Organisation, an umbrella consumer lobbying group, alleges that Google grabs people's data mostly through "location history" and "web and app activity," using "various tricks and practices" to make sure those features are kept enabled.

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The group (known also as BEUC, the abbreviation of its name in French) says consumers aren't informed about how their personal data is used, nor does it offer them a real choice about providing it.

"Google's data hunger is notorious but the scale with which it deceives its users to track and monetise their every move is breathtaking," said Monique Goyens, BEUC's director general, in a release.

"The situation is more than alarming. Smartphones are being used for spying on our every move. This is not the digital society that European consumers want to live in."

Google was hit with a US lawsuit based on similar allegations in August, and an investigation into its practices kicked off in Arizona in September.

"Location History is turned off by default, and you can edit, delete, or pause it at any time. If it's on, it helps improve services like predicted traffic on your commute,"  a Google spokesperson said in a emailed statement.

"If you pause it, we make clear that -- depending on your individual phone and app settings -- we might still collect and use location data to improve your Google experience."

Google promises Chrome changes: The shift comes after privacy complaints.

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