More than a billion people worldwide have signed up for Google accounts, clicking through screens promising that “your personal info is private and safe.” This week, Google’s sign-up process came under fire when European Union consumer rights groups issued new privacy complaints suggesting that the opposite is true—that Google intentionally designs default settings to deceive new users into granting permissions to harvest and share a broad swath of personal info.
“The language Google uses at every step of the registration process is unclear, incomplete, and misleading,” the European consumer organization BEUC told Reuters. BEUC is helping to coordinate a potential civil lawsuit in Germany and several new complaints to data-protection authorities from consumer rights groups in France, Greece, the Czech Republic, Norway, and Slovenia.
The key issue in these complaints is how hard Google makes it for account users to choose privacy-friendly options. It’s much easier, the consumer groups argue, to set up an account to share personal info than to protect it. As Tech Crunch reported, Google designed a one-click “express personalization” option allowing data tracking, while “manual personalization” requires 10 clicks to turn off tracking.
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