Google has been covertly tracking users’ movements in violation of European Union regulations, seven European consumer groups are charging in complaints.
Users are being tracked through two applications built into all Google accounts, Location History and Web & App Activity, the complaint states.
The groups bringing the charge cite a study by the Norwegian Consumer Council that concluded Google used “deceptive design and misleading information, which results in users accepting to be constantly tracked,” Phys.org reported.
The tech giant “uses extremely detailed and comprehensive personal data without an appropriate judicial basis, and the data is acquired by means of manipulative techniques,” asserted council official Gro Mette Moen.
The complaints, based on the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation, were filed in the Czech Republic, Greece, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Slovenia and Sweden.
The Norwegian complaint said location data “can reveal a lot about a person: real time movements, frequently visited places, daily routines, interests, etc.”
“Constant location tracking and aggregation of location data over time can be used to build very detailed profiles of individuals and to infer religious beliefs, political leanings, and sexual orientation, among other things,” it added.
Monique Goyens, director general of the European Consumer Organisation, said smartphones “are being used for spying on our every move.”
In response, Google argued 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. 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.”
Meanwhile, Reuters reported Google’s new artificial intelligence tool is blocking gender-based pronouns such as “him” and “her.”
Project leaders explained to Reuters they feared the “Smart Compose” technology might predict someone’s sex or gender identity incorrectly and cause offense.
The problem was discovered in January when a company research scientist typed “I am meeting an investor next week.” Smart Compose suggested a possible follow-up question: “Do you want to meet him?” instead of “her.”
Reuters observed: “Consumers have become accustomed to embarrassing gaffes from autocorrect on smartphones. But Google refused to take chances at a time when gender issues are reshaping politics and society, and critics are scrutinizing potential biases in artificial intelligence like never before.”