Dutch consumer groups sue Google over its entire business model

If the Chocolate Factory can't track you to sell ads, what does it have left?

A group of Dutch consumer orgs sued Google today for what it alleges are "large-scale privacy violations."

The action was first announced in May, and since then 82,000 Dutch citizens have signed up as part of the claim.

The group, which said it launched court action today, alleges that Google has trampled over Dutch and European privacy laws by collecting data without also collecting permission. That data – including confidential information such as health, ethnicity, and political preference – is then shared with third parties keen to sign up for the Google ad platform.

Ada van der Veer, chairman of the Foundation for the Protection of Privacy Interests, said: "Google is constantly monitoring everyone. Even when using third-party cookies – which are invisible – Google continues to collect data through other people's websites and apps, even when someone is not using its products or services.

"This enables Google to monitor almost the entire internet behavior of its users. In addition, Google continuously collects the physical locations of users, even when they are not actively using their devices and think they are 'offline'."

Those are some hefty allegations. Google has been making progress in settling tracking lawsuits but does have form when it comes to tracking users who specifically told it not to.

The Register put the case to Google, which declined to comment.

The lawsuit is demanding some impressive compensation. As well as calling a halt to the alleged privacy violations, €750 in damages is required for every consumer that has used its services. On top of that, the suit also requests that the judge determine damages based on the determined value of the data collected and shared by Google.

Van der Veer also noted that data could be transferred to countries outside of Europe, thus exposing citizens to the risk of surveillance by foreign powers. Other EU countries similarly worry about Google's alleged habit of breaching GDPR.

Google is in good company when it comes to irritating the Dutch. Last year, Microsoft received a rap over the knuckles via a Data Protection Impact Assessment (DPIA) into the company's productivity products.

Van der Veer said: "The Foundation has spoken to Google about all these matters, without results. It is now up to the courts to put a stop to Google's practices." ®

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