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Brave Files Complaint Against Google with GDPR

Brave, the firm behind its popular tracking and advertisement free browser, has filed a complaint with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in Europe, the Irish Data Protection Commission on March 16. It is calling for Google’s European main branch in Dublin to answer for the collection and utilization of personal data by individuals or businesses.

Google’s market dominance at almost 90% has allowed the company to create multiple collection points of data via its many products without contention by its competitors. For years, despite suspicions of Google possibly illegally using consumers’ data and breaching privacy laws, it has managed to operate without question in its current form. 

That is changing, as Brave has made the first move in demanding Google to be accountable for their operations. According to Brave’s announcement, the formal complaint filed with the GDPR claims that Google has infringed Article 5(1)b as set out by the agency. Under Article 5(1)b, it requires “organizations internally ring-fence personal data and use it only for the narrow purpose it was collected for”.

“Google has personal data about everyone. It collects this from products like YouTube and Gmail, and many other Google products that operate behind the scenes across the Internet”, Dr. Johnny Ryan, Chief Policy and Industry Relations Officer at Brave, said. “But merely having everyone’s personal data does not mean Google is allowed to use that data across its entire business, for whatever purposes it wants. Rather, it has to seek a legal basis for each specific purpose, and be transparent about them. But Brave’s new evidence reveals that Google reuses our personal data between its businesses and products in bewildering ways that infringe the purpose limitation principle. Google’s internal data free-for-all infringes the GDPR”.

Google’s internal data free-for-all has been unchecked so far, allowing the company to utilize consumer data in ‘limitless’ ways, all without consumers’ knowledge. The best example of this is Google Ads, where businesses try to buy advertising space on Chrome. They do so by engaging in ‘Real-Time Bidding’ on Google Ads. In this case, Google unlawfully organizes and uses consumer data so that businesses can direct their ads at specific target audiences for a rather hefty price. Consumers earn nothing from having their data used in this manner.

Dr. Ryan has tried to communicate directly with Google for the past six months, searching for clarity on how Google uses his data to no avail. Additionally, Brave has also released a report titled ‘Inside the Black Box’, shedding some insight into how Google collects data from websites, apps, operating systems without detailing how this data will be processed.

The GDPR provides the key – by requiring Google to specify its processing activities. At present, Google’s attempts to specify what they do with personal data are hopelessly vague. This action by Brave aims to put an end to that and bring some governance to this data free-for-all, once and for all,” Ravi Naik, a partner at AWO Legal, said.

Dr. Ryan has also stressed that Brave’s decision to file a complaint against Google is due to their belief that consumers are entitled to data privacy and should be informed as to how their data is being shared or monetized on a browser that sees an average of 1.7 billion users daily.

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