back to article Google risks mega-fine in EU over location 'stalking'

Privacy campaigners say Google's obsessive collection of location markers violates Europe's privacy laws - potentially exposing the Californian giant to punitive fines. Several privacy watchers agree that as it stands, users are misled, and can't give informed consent. That exposes the company to financial penalty under GDPR …

  1. Khaptain Silver badge

    Confusopoly

    Google, Apple et al know only too well what they are doing, by intentionally confusing everything to a point where even hardened IT Pros have difficulties understanding how to setup things up.

    It's simple really, Google will do everything in it's power to stop you having control over "their" data...

    http://dilbert.com/strip/2010-11-21

    1. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

      Re: Confusopoly

      Dilbert comic refers - it is so apt.

    2. My-Handle

      Re: Confusopoly

      Sounds like an extension of the "If you can't dazzle with brilliance, baffle with bullshit" approach. Also used to great effect by large companies to limit bonuses, raises, promotions of their own employees, justify bonuses, raises of management, justify the appointment of manager's mate to high-level role, by governments when enacting new 'security' laws...

      That list was supposed to be small, but I can think of so many examples on the spur of the moment that it's depressing.

      1. Lomax
        WTF?

        Re: Confusopoly

        Flat screen TVs is one product that springs to mind as having deliberately obtuse model numbers, making it virtually impossible to conclude an informed purchase. For example, a (very) quick look turned up the following list of 43" TVs from Samsung (other manufacturers may be even worse):

        UN43NU6900FXZA

        UN43KU6300F

        UN43KU7000

        UN43K5110BFXKR

        UN43MU630D

        UN43MU6300

        UN43MU630DF

        UN43M5000

        UN43J5000

        UN43J5200AF

        UN43J5000BF

        UN43LS003AFXZA

        UN43J5000EFXZA

        UN43KU7000

        UN43KU7500

        HG43NE478SFXZA

        HG43NE478SF

        HG43NE470SFXZA

        HG43NF693GFXZA

        HG43NE590SFXZA

        HG43NE460SFXZA

        HG43ND477SF

        HG43ND477SFXZA

        HG43NE593SFXZA

        HG43NEW460SFXZA

        HG43ND470SFXZA

        1. Wensleydale Cheese

          Re: Confusopoly

          "For example, a (very) quick look turned up the following list of 43" TVs from Samsung (other manufacturers may be even worse)"

          I came across similar confusion with Sony's model designations when looking to download a User Guide for a particular model.

          1. Jamie Jones Silver badge

            Re: Confusopoly

            Product codes.... not helped by certain large retailers giving unique model numbers to items they sell, so they can use the "if you see the same model elsewhere for cheaper, we'll refund the difference" line without being bitten:

            Quote: http://blogs.thisismoney.co.uk/2012/02/thinking-of-shopping-at-brighthouse-stop-dont.html

            Brighthouse is selling this glossy-black Hoover model, pictured, for a cash price of £703.29. I reckon I found the identical model, with exactly the same specifications but with a white paint finish, being sold online for £469.Correct washing machine catalogue

            Could I be 100% certain they were the same? No - because Brighthouse, of course, magics its own unique codes out of thin air, rather than use the standard Hoover codes other retailers cite.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Confusopoly

            the pattern is usually pretty straightforward.

            Example, in the Sony TV: KD-55XE8577

            that is a 55 inch TV in the XE85 series.

            the series is in it's 5th Generation, hence the "E" in XE and 8577 denote it's position in the range, where higher numbers mean higher spec. 85xx TVs are pretty similar to each other, and you'd expect 9xxx TVs to be more up-market.

            You can probably work out the same for Samsung.

      2. bazza Silver badge

        Re: Confusopoly

        @My-Handle,

        Sounds like an extension of the "If you can't dazzle with brilliance, baffle with bullshit" approach. Also used to great effect by large companies to limit bonuses, raises, promotions of their own employees, justify bonuses, raises of management, justify the appointment of manager's mate to high-level role, by governments when enacting new 'security' laws...

        That list was supposed to be small, but I can think of so many examples on the spur of the moment that it's depressing.

        Oh be fair. At least with a government you're able to vote against them, and if enough people do that then there's a change of ruling party, and possibly a change in law too.

        Can't do that with Google. You can buy shares in them, but all the openly traded ones don't give you voting rights. So as a member of the public you have even less ability to change Google's behavior than your own government's...

        I must say that this looks like a spectacular fail on Google's part. This new data law has been in the cards for yonks, and surely it must have crossed their minds that what they're doing is probably illegal. Did they consult a European lawyer, or rely on an American interpretation?

        1. Mark 65

          Re: Confusopoly

          I must say that this looks like a spectacular fail on Google's part. This new data law has been in the cards for yonks, and surely it must have crossed their minds that what they're doing is probably illegal. Did they consult a European lawyer, or rely on an American interpretation?

          Simple answer - lobby dollars -> don't give a fuck. Just like most multinationals that have had their arse handed to them for bad behaviour, they simply don't care.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Confusopoly

      you need a job change if you really work in IT and can't work it out. My 70yr mother has no problem working this stuff out.

      perhaps flipping hamburgers might be a better job for you?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Confusopoly

        > you need a job change if you really work in IT and can't work it out. My 70yr mother has no problem working this stuff out.

        What *I* can't work out is what on Earth you are on about. And for all we know, your mother born around 1947-1948¹ is a subject matter expert in whatever it is that you are whingeing about.

        ¹ You really are in IT and you don't know better than to use ages instead of birthdays?

  2. ratfox Silver badge
    Paris Hilton

    Google is creating a highly personal virtual profile of you accessible to advertisers

    Does "accessible to advertisers" mean that Google uses the highly personal profile to choose which ads to show to the users, or does that mean that advertisers can read the highly personal profile of the users?

    1. James 47

      For the AdExchange feed at least, Google doesn't not send your GPS coordinates directly. It instead sends a polygon, for example 2 square KM, and says that you're somewhere in there. It also truncates your IP address.

      1. nagyeger

        polygon

        I imagine in quite a few locations on this planet, a 2km square pinpoints your exact home. Should we understand there some kind of 'polygon sized to fit 10000 people' calculation?' Even then, searching on some terms, one in 10000 might be enough to identify someone uniquely.

        1. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

          Re: a 2km square pinpoints your exact home.

          In the Highlands, I'm certain. But IF the centre of that square is always where the device is located then I'm sure that would give the same effect even in Central London.

          There is the other side of data anonymisation too. In the United States a property owner in a sparsely populated area complained bitterly that whenever a not overly specific Zip Code was typed in to a webisite, their particular property always popped up, which meant that people were contacting them for various products and services which they knew nothing about.

          (Now if that property owner were a bit entrepreneurial they would either be selling their property at a premium price for its superior search engine credentials, or setting up an appropriate business).

        2. Ian Michael Gumby Silver badge
          Boffin

          @nagyeger Re: polygon

          Map Tiles are set sizes and there are larger tiles available for areas where there are less roads/routes. (really its road link segments...) But its easier to standardize on one of the smaller tile sizes.

          That's why they use it. They don't care about the guy who lives on the farm in Normal OK and owns most of the 2km^2.

          But even in a 2km square, given a truncated IP address, they will have you nailed down fairly well.

          If the advertiser has other sources of data... they can even narrow it down further.

          Its scary.

      2. Ian Michael Gumby Silver badge
        Boffin

        @James 47

        So they send a map tile id. That and the truncated IP address is enough to identify your location.

        Yeah, this doesn't look good for Google.

        As the article and other conversations point out that Apple uses it for internal stuff and doesn't serve it up on a platter.

    2. Dave Bell

      That is one of the critical distinctions.

      Recent experience of GDPR-rated consents and settings suggests that internet companies are each allowing hundreds of advertising companies to see my data, and I see nothing to distinguish Google on this. Nobody seems to anonymise the data.

      It's not like old-time advertising on TV, when viewing figures were obtained by recording a sample audience, and you had some idea of what sort of audience watched a particular programme, but nothing specific. It seemed to work. The commercial TV companies made good profits. And, if you're old enough, a phrase such as "Ridley Scott's Hovis ad" still conjures up an image.

      The stuff bad enough to remember was for the local companies, the static card with the voice-over for one of the local department stores that vanished into BHS or House of Fraser. Or perhaps, in the cinema, the Pearl & Dean advert for the restaurant so good that the chef ate there himself. And we seem to be getting that level of advertising over the internet, without even getting as good a localisation as Pearl & Dean gave you. The restaurant where the chef ate was at least in the same town as the cinema.

      Google doesn't seem able to manage that, at times they can't even get the right country.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        And, if you're old enough, a phrase such as "Ridley Scott's Hovis ad" still conjures up an image.

        And a geographically confused one at that. A location in Dorset, a voice-over in a generalised north of England accent and music by a Czech in New York.

      2. JohnFen Silver badge

        "Nobody seems to anonymise the data."

        Given that anonymizing data is largely impossible in this day of Big Data, I think that giving up the pretense is at least more honest.

    3. LDS Silver badge

      "Does "accessible to advertisers" mean that Google"

      Google knows the value of those data, and won't give full access, I guess, unless you're ready to pay a lot for them, or if it incurs a "CA blunder" as well. Yet they can give advertisers tools to micro-target people efficiently, without giving the data away (although I believe part of them cold be reconstructed intersecting the proper sets...)

      That works because they are able to build detailed profiles - and with no oversight - while GDPR rules you can't just hoard data as you please, especially if users didn't opt-in and even attempted to opt-out, and are actively misled.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: "Does "accessible to advertisers" mean that Google"

        "attempted to opt-out, and are actively misled."

        This is what will hang them.

    4. Teiwaz Silver badge

      Useless data fetish

      Google uses the highly personal profile to choose which ads to show to the users

      I don't exactly have browser wrapped tinfoil, cling-film or a triple-thick black nobbler prophylactic, and the Ads I see are still wide of the mark by miles, parrot back ads for something I bought yesterday and the kind of thing you only buy once in a while or the bloody obvious (ads for a site I visited a minute ago for the rest of the day (just been there, I already know about it).

      I often wonder why they bother. Can't they just tell their customers they 'know shit' to get a sale, send em' a flashy ad with promises, after all it works on the plebs with spot cream or anti-dandruff which doesn't (just ask 'Snowey' Slopes).

      1. Mage Silver badge

        Re: Useless data fetish

        Because AI is 99% hype, and Advert personalisation/Targeting is just fake snake oil to get companies to spend less on TV/Radio/Paper/dumb billboards and more on Internet and also smart video billboards no doubt sniffing to see have you WiFi/BT on.

        I'd be very suspicious of ANY training of Machine Learning models. Just a special type of database. What do they do with it afterwards? How anonymous is the human curated data used to train it when it's deployed. By definition it's NOT real learning, it's storing the input data and then using pattern matching on the later queries to give outputs. Otherwise it would be useless.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Useless data fetish

          Concur although it can be very accurate if you go into Google's settings to cull the "mistaken" profiling. Whenever Google jogs my elbow saying it's time to check into my settings, I don't ignore it. I've been using their services for multiple business and personal accounts since Google's introduction. Quite obviously, I know exactly what I'm agreeing to up-front. I consider the trade-off acceptable. Equally obvious that many/most everyone here do not. The situation with Microsoft is quite the opposite. There is force involved in that "relationship." Hundreds of thousands of dollars for software packages stuck to Windows operating systems assures that. Abandon that investment or submit.

          Now if you want to get into threat models, that's the cable company and most likely the US government. The former is a piece of cake to circumvent, well here at least. The latter, impossible.

    5. JohnFen Silver badge

      Which of those two options it is doesn't actually matter to me, personally. I object to any advertising company (and especially Google) having a highly personal profile of me, whether they actually share that profile with others or not.

    6. Neon Teepee
      Joke

      @Ratfox - Yes

    7. Loud Speaker

      YMMV

      Does "accessible to advertisers" mean that Google uses the highly personal profile to choose which ads to show to the users, or does that mean that advertisers can read the highly personal profile of the users?

      Yes

  3. This post has been deleted by its author

  4. Will Godfrey Silver badge
    Happy

    Interesting times

    I predict a huge rise in popcorn futures

    1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      Re: popcorn futures

      Those guys should rightfully be billionnaires by now.

      And not only because of all the popcorn I've eaten.

      1. Ian Michael Gumby Silver badge
        Facepalm

        Re: popcorn futures

        Well with the recent weather patterns, the amount of Sweet corn could be down and prices up. ;-)

  5. nuked
    Holmes

    I think you mean this exposes the local subsidiary to fines of up to 4% of pre-tax revenue, which in the UK at least equates to a handful of small change...

    1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

      Local subsidiaries

      Maybe so for the UK thanks to Brexit, the European GDPR is quite clear about world wide turnover, not revenue (either pre- or post-tax), leave alone profit.

    2. big_D Silver badge

      The fine is GLOBAL turnover, not national or European.

    3. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      nuked,

      Not only is the law on turnover - but I think the UK is one of Google's top markets.

      I admit I'm going from 5 year old memory here, but when they moved the advertising sales to Ireland it was over £6bn of UK advertising sales, which was not that far short of 10% of global turnover at the time. That's quite a lot of leverage.

  6. }{amis}{ Silver badge
    Mushroom

    RAAAAAAAAAAGE!

    When all the original GPDR data controls came out I spent a day going through all of the providers I could and turning off as much of this crap as I could including all of googles location crap the only thing I left switched on on google was what I thought was the web history.

    Can we please nuke Goole and co from orbit I am tired of this S@~t and barring a bureaucratic miracle the B@~%$£%s won't change their behaviour.

    1. Chloe Cresswell

      Re: RAAAAAAAAAAGE!

      While I believe this is a typo, I do support nuking Goole... :)

      1. Alister Silver badge

        Re: RAAAAAAAAAAGE!

        Yeah, and Grimsby, while you're there.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: RAAAAAAAAAAGE!

          Oh dear.

          It used to be Hull, Hell, and Halifax.

          If you can solve the targeting problem, exo-atmospheric bomb-pumped X-ray lasers might be the best answer.

        2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: RAAAAAAAAAAGE!

          "Yeah, and Grimsby, while you're there."

          Nuking a place while you're there isn't usually a good idea.

        3. Chloe Cresswell

          Re: RAAAAAAAAAAGE!

          To be fair, you'll probably take out grimsby and hull at once if you go for goole with a decent device...

          Speaking as someone who lives in the area, it would be an improvement, and would deal with my stress issues ;)

          1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

            Re: RAAAAAAAAAAGE!

            This is how we'll beat back the Yorkshire Independence Army when they go on the rampage in about 2021. Seeing as we got rid of our tactical nukes, due to arms control treaties and the end of the Cold War, we'll be forced to resort to larger strategic warheads.

    2. JimPoak

      Re: RAAAAAAAAAAGE!

      What the did Goole do to you or did you mean Google.

      Thank you wikipedia

      Goole is a town, civil parish and inland port located at junction 36 off the M62 via the A614 and approximately 45 miles from the North Sea at the confluence of the rivers Don and Ouse in the East Riding of Yorkshire, England, although historically within the West Riding of Yorkshire

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: RAAAAAAAAAAGE!

      Why not just use an iPhone and steer clear of Google services?

  7. naive

    It is also wifi

    Google also uses its wifi database to locate users. I have my location switched off, but based on the wifi/ADSL address of my phone, it knows and registers where I am.

    So it is a double violation, location off is supposed to be location off, and not use the wifi of a shopkeeper to start sending product related emails and browser ads when a user stares into the shopwindow for a few seconds.

    1. Chloe Cresswell

      Re: It is also wifi

      I love when I open maps at home, it automatically centres me on a place in wales.. I'm in lincolnshire. Isn't geolocation so wonderful!

      1. tiggity Silver badge

        Re: It is also wifi

        There used to be a cracking bug with train stations, a lot of Midland stations had same SSID, so Android would think you were in Derby when you were actually in Birmingham (or vise versa) - typically seen after train journey where phone off & swotch on indoors with dismal GPS / mobile signal so it guessed on wifi SSID.

        It was not very intelligent in using previis location data - mate of mine went to a google conference (so phone location from when outside the UK venue), inside, with only wifi, phone showed him in San Fransisco (where another Google conference was going on, I assume same SSID used on routers at the far apart venues) - poor logic to jump thousands of miles in location in a few seconds...

        1. Tromos

          Re: It is also wifi

          Bit stupid to use SSID rather than MAC. No guarantee as it can be spoofed, but much more likely to be unique.

      2. LDS Silver badge
        Devil

        "I love when I open maps at home, it automatically centres me on a place in wales"

        That's probably because dynamically assigned IPv4 addresses are an issue - right now sites attempting to geoip me puts me in a place tens of km away, probably they got some fix when it was assigned to somebody else through another mean.

        But don't worry, IPv6 will fix that as well.... especially if ISPs are free to sell those data. Maybe not in EU I hope...

        1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Re: "I love when I open maps at home, it automatically centres me on a place in wales"

          It probably puts you in the location of your ISP's exit point. The site only sees the ISP IP4 address, not your individual NAT endpoint

          1. Chloe Cresswell

            Re: "I love when I open maps at home, it automatically centres me on a place in wales"

            My other line, same ISP, shows the location of the end of the line. So does every other connection with that ISP.

            Have no idea why the IP for this line only does this. I just laugh at it.

            As for dynamic, nope, all of them are static allocations.

            The IPv6 shows Ireland, but that is correct, as that's where my IPv6 does indeed come out.

          2. LDS Silver badge

            "It probably puts you in the location of your ISP's exit point"

            If so I think it would display the telephone exchange, or the one upstream, location. Instead it shows a small town in a mountain location far away from both. MaxMind GeoIP service maps it in the center of the largest and closest city, but it maps several IPs there, so it's of little use for precise targeting. I guess many attempt to get a better fix for IPs, but dynamic allocations can lead to big errors.

    2. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: It is also wifi

      I've not used Android in a few years now, but I'm sure there's another breach in the design unless they've changed it. It used to be that if you turned off location services except when Google Maps was running, then Google would disable aGPS.

      I guess you could argue that them being unable to slurp your data to build that global WiFi SSID database should mean you don't get to share in the benefits - but I'm pretty sure that the GDPR doesn't allow you to do that trick with disabling services if you don't give consent.

      You're allowed to refuse to deal with people if you won't give up neccessary data, but that's using the provision of gathering required data to run a service. If you use consent, you're specifically not allowed to refuse some services if consent is not given - you're supposed to use a different justification to gather the data, if that's the case.

      But I'm so out of date on Android, this could now be irrelevant. Also it sounds like they've made the location data controls a lot more complicated since the last time I was using it.

    3. Flywheel Silver badge
      Flame

      Re: It is also wifi

      "I also have this problem", as they say.

      I have spent an inordinate amount of time trying to disable/pause as many locations as possible, and believed I'd finally achieved it. However, in looking up a retailer address, Google helpfully popped up a map and asked if I'd like directions, so I accepted, expecting to get the opportunity to enter a start point. But no, Google identified and auto-filled my exact location, presumably from my accidentally-collected WiFi info.

      Put it this way - if I ever find out I'm to be terminated with a drone strike, the Android gets ditched immediately.

    4. TwistedPsycho

      Re: It is also wifi

      I bet it's answer would be that it is using the retailers information instead of yours in order to create that particular element of the profile.

      It will then argue that as it is a business-2-business arrangement with the retailer, you must complain about the retailer, or something.

    5. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: It is also wifi

      "Google also uses its wifi database to locate users. I have my location switched off, but based on the wifi/ADSL address of my phone, it knows and registers where I am."

      Why is your WiFI on anyway, except when you want it to be?

  8. Adam 1

    > Google was defiant in a canned statement sent to The Register this week that "Location History" is "entirely opt in"

    I think they may need to reflect upon the term "in" in the phrase "opt-in". It means that the default behaviour is to avoid collecting and tracking it unless the user explicitly acts to enable it.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      This might be actually the case, in the sense that the first time you open Google Maps, you probably get a pop-up saying "do you wish to enable Location History", and everybody clicks yes without reading.

      1. Dan 55 Silver badge

        Location history is spread all over different apps and settings and the Web and App activity setting too. Everything defaults to 'on' so their PR dept has just blatantly lied and it's on record. I hope it's used against them in an upcoming court case.

      2. katrinab Silver badge

        No, you get a pop-up saying that by continuing, you agree to the T&C, and buried in page 289 of the T&C, it says you have opted in.

        1. Aitor 1 Silver badge

          Illegal

          And that, just by itself, is illegal.

    2. LDS Silver badge
      Big Brother

      It's opt-in. Google opted you in.

      You have to explain Googledroids that users are human beings and opt-in is up to them, not Google... but I'm not sure they'll ever understand.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    'Will regulators act on this globalised prowling?'

    Until such a time that privacy becomes big business for the giant squib that is Wall Street... Law firms probably won't take on too many of these cases apart from Schrems/NOYB etc. But if Goldman Sachs was ever to bankroll even just one lawsuit, Google / Facebook would be very nervous.

  10. James 51 Silver badge

    You can only turn all that stuff off if you create a profile. If you buy a phone, don't have a profile and so can't turn it off, that's what could really do for them.

  11. RobertLongshaft

    will regulators act on this globalised prowling?

    Does the Globalist EU want to prohibit its media arm from collecting data to brainwash millions of Europeans?

    Hmmm, I'm gonna guess not. See Apple and Ireland, how much tax has Apple actually paid? Not a dime.

    1. LDS Silver badge

      "See Apple and Ireland"

      You mean the 13+ bn EU ordered Ireland to collect?

      1. Androgynous Cupboard Silver badge

        Re: "See Apple and Ireland"

        Shhh, don't provoke him - he might post again with more words.

  12. MrKrotos

    GDPR is worthless if this gets pushed under the carpet

    Google was defiant in a canned statement sent to The Register this week that "Location History" is "entirely opt in"

    Bullshit and I hope they get the shite sued out of em!

    1. Herring`

      Re: GDPR is worthless if this gets pushed under the carpet

      Quite.

      And there are a bunch of other companies who also make "opting out" so fucking onerous that they have to be in breach too.

      1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

        Re: GDPR? What GDPR?

        We make sure Location History users know that when they disable the product, we continue to use location.

        Quoth the Google. User disables location, we continue to use location. Ok, it was a hard sell to ask a Google PR flack to defend this practice, but I guess they should be used to it, and Google's simply redefining what is currently understood as 'disable'. It's not a disabled feature, it's now differently abled..

        1. stiine Silver badge
          FAIL

          Re: GDPR? What GDPR?

          So, you're saying its like the word: unlimited... great..

  13. Lomax
    Big Brother

    Google can only be fixed by being broken (up)

    It's been quite clear for some time that funding development of the world's dominant mobile OS with advertising revenue will always lead to unacceptable levels of user surveillance and privacy intrusion. No regulation or fine can quell their desire to cheat, lie, and circumvent as long as this unholy alliance exists. Google needs be broken up, with Android becoming a separate entity funded by license fees, (whether from handset makers, operators or consumers is egal) - or be forced into the public domain. Anti-trust legislation must be brought to bear on the Big Brother in our pockets, swiftly and comprehensively. It is not an exaggeration to say that the survival of free and open society depends on it.

    1. Teiwaz Silver badge
      Joke

      Re: Google can only be fixed by being broken (up)

      That would Go and Ogle

      Whatsitname parent Alphabet broken up preferably, 'A', 'B', 'C', etc would go good, then they'd be so small they'd get stamped on hopefully.

    2. LDS Silver badge

      "It's been quite clear for some time that funding development"

      I think you're confusing cause and effect. Advertising is the only reason why Android exists, not vice versa. Android was needed and designed from the ground up to hoard users' data to sustain the lucrative Google ads business.

      Google could have charged for its mobile OS to fund its development - but the plan was to give it away for free (more or less) to spread it as much as possible, so it would have greatly sustained the ads business - and the plan worked, especially outside US where Apple expensive phones have less market share.

      All Google's products are designed that way - lure "users" into something that looks "free" while squeezing out any useful data from them.

      That's why also Google leverage open source so much - it's a way to actually reduce the investments on products it has to give away, to maximize the returns from the ads operations.

      All you need is to separate the ads business from the software one. It's clear that any company combining both business will work do deny users any kind of privacy, and because software today has access to any personal data, needs to be regulated to protect them.

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

      2. Lomax
        Alert

        Re: "It's been quite clear for some time that funding development"

        I'm not in the least bit confused, and I certainly didn't intend to make any claim about which concept had primacy. But your "chicken before egg" assertion does nothing to change the conclusion - that advertising funded operating systems are bad for the consumer, and bad for society, having as they do an almost unlimited ability to farm its users, and all of the incentives to do so. That the obscene profits generated from such anti-consumer practices have made a handful of companies wealthy enough to challenge the power of most nation states only adds to the depressing outlook - if we fail to act while we still have the upper hand we risk becoming locked into a corporatocratic future that would put Orwell (and Gibson) to shame.

        Some might say this has already happened, but I have hope that if we keep calm and work together we still have the collective strength to defend the basic principles of open society, and our shared ideals. The European Union increasingly looks like the single most effective such effort, a solitary voice of reason in the epic storm of insanity that has befallen us - particularly now that the United States appears to have lost sight of the values of its founders.

        1. LDS Silver badge

          "advertising funded operating systems are bad for the consumer"

          It's not a chicken or egg issue, it's a fundamental perspective. Google is not a "product" company looking for ways to fund the development of its free products (you could still sell ads without hoarding user data), it's an ads company always looking for ways to ensure its dominance and high profits - and hoarding users data is basic block of its foundations, and any product development has this main requirement, so it can't really change. To survive, it needs to find ways to gather more data before competitors.

          So yes, we agree that anything built on advertising is doomed to become very bad not only for "consumers" (which looks to be a US obsession when it comes to privacy, it's not a commercial matter, it's a fundamental right), but for citizens and their rights, even when they are not "consumers" - think that Google & C. collect data about people not using their products at all - and the data are used not only to sell products or services. If you can target voters, you are targeting citizens, not consumers. If you know where people were and are, you're intruding into citizens lives, not consumers.

          Thereby, yes, it's time to understand how much personal data are important and how much protection they need - and if the outcome will be to hit some big corps profits, it will be inevitable. Even the abolition of slavery hit the profits of those relying on it, but when it's a matter of fundamental rights, profits are not on the same level.

      3. JohnFen Silver badge

        Re: "It's been quite clear for some time that funding development"

        "Advertising is the only reason why Android exists"

        Let's be accurate here. The Android was not invented to be an advertising tool. That's just what Google turned it into when they bought it.

      4. bazza Silver badge

        Re: "It's been quite clear for some time that funding development"

        @LDS,

        Google could have charged for its mobile OS to fund its development - but the plan was to give it away for free (more or less) to spread it as much as possible, so it would have greatly sustained the ads business - and the plan worked, especially outside US where Apple expensive phones have less market share.

        Free? More or less? Don't you remember that just a few weeks ago the EU fined Google because Android is far from free? Using it relies on proprietary blobs that come with conditions attached, illegal conditions as it turns out.

        Google's business model is sunk, at least in Europe, it's just a matter of when the regulators tear them apart, not if.

  14. Chris G Silver badge

    I notice that there are still a lot of sites including British ones that give the old ' by continuing blah blah you give your consent etc' they are also the ones that when you click for the details and opt out page keep sending you back to the page you are already on or say control is only via your browser.

    There must be ten years work for a team of investigators to track down only the current crop of GDPR a users, that's what they are relying on, that it is unenforceable.

    I also notice that android based google is worse than on line. I think the EU needs to regard this as a source of revenue for the time being so that the fines finance an enforcement office

    1. Teiwaz Silver badge

      I notice that there are still a lot of sites including British ones that give the old ' by continuing blah blah you give your consent

      And what are the Beeb up to, went through the options a couple of days ago, now last news item I read some of the twitter 'quotes' were blanked 'you have not opted in the third party cookies'. I don't give a damn about the twitterings, but why some still visible some not, seemed dodgy.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "Google even continues to record your browsing history when you put the browser into "Incognito Mode"."

    What? Really? I think that deserves an article on its own.

    1. werdsmith Silver badge

      "Google even continues to record your browsing history when you put the browser into "Incognito Mode".

      It does, but it also tells you that it will do it.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "It does, but it also tells you that it will do it."

        "Chrome won’t save the following information:

        Your browsing history

        Cookies and site data

        Information entered in forms

        Your activity might still be visible to:

        Websites that you visit

        Your employer or school

        Your Internet service provider"

        I don't see Google in that list ... unless, of course, it's buried in the (likely completely invalid) EULA.

      2. David Nash Silver badge

        it also tells you that it will do it.

        Actually, it doesn't. It says that pages won't stick around in your browser's history, cookie store, or search history after you've closed all incognito tabs. It then warns you that this doesn't protect you from your employer, ISP, or the websites themselves, naturally.

        But it doesn't say that Google/Chrome will record your history when incognito.

        1. werdsmith Silver badge

          Re: it also tells you that it will do it.

          Your browsing history won't be retained in your browser, but only a dumb fuck would believe that this means that it won't be recorded somewhere if they are told your activity is still visible downstream.

  16. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
    Pint

    "Google risks mega-fine in EU..."

    I believe that you may have misspelled "giga-fine".

  17. Avatar of They
    Mushroom

    Litmus Test.

    Future credibility of the GDPR / EU versus the biggest name doing it.

    Popcorn. Sunglasses, Comfy seat booked.

  18. Siobhan

    Considering the company and where it's name came from, perhaps a fine of €1 googol would be appropriate.

  19. m-k

    Google risks mega-fine

    20 years later: the latest Google appeal in the 2019 EU "location stalking" legal case has been heard today...

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    CASH...CASH is the answer....

    I purchased an Android phone, a Sony Xperia. Then I went a Three shop and bought a pay-as-you-go SIM for cash. I disabled as much of the Google software as I could on the phone. I don't have a Google account.

    *

    Unless I'm very much mistaken, or very confused, then it appears that Google and Three can track THE PHONE, but they have no idea who the owner of the phone might be.

    *

    Now, if someone (Google, Three in this case) is tracking the DESTINATION of my phone calls, or the destination of my emails, or common locations for the phone, they may eventually INFER who the phone is being used by.

    *

    When the Three SIM expires after a month, I will be going to another Three shop, and buying another Three pay-as-you-go SIM for cash, resetting the phone to factory settings, and starting again........and so on. Big brother may be watching, but it's possible to make it pretty difficult for big brother, whether or not GDPR is in effect!

    1. MrTuK
      Thumb Up

      Re: CASH...CASH is the answer....

      Not sure how much a sim costs from Three these days but surely using a VPN on you Android Mobile device would be more economical and less hassle especially if you change the VPN server to a different Country on weekly basis also NOT using Google pay might be be a good idea.

      1. OhThatGuy

        Re: CASH...CASH is the answer....

        The VPN gives you another IP address, but the details in your phone are essentially the same. And I assume that G slurps, processes and sells those. Ie no lost revenue for G.

    2. Teiwaz Silver badge

      Re: CASH...CASH is the answer....

      If you object to being tracked by Google, why the F would you buy an Android phone in the first place?

      This is the primary issue, seems most people bitchin about Google tracking also went out and bought an android.

      Talk about enablement.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: CASH...CASH is the answer....

        "If you object to being tracked by Google, why the F would you buy an Android phone in the first place?"

        ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

        Because I want a pocket PDA/camera and I don't want to be tracked by Apple while trapped in their 'garden'.

        I am strongly inclined to start carrying my android phone in airplane mode, inside a Faraday cage.

        My actual 'phone' phone is not a smartphone.

        Need to get into the habit of turning it off, though.

    3. Mike 33

      Re: CASH...CASH is the answer....

      Big issue using the same phone over and over is that even with a new SIM the IMEI won't be changing. You will be associated with the phone as soon as you turn on with the new SIM.

    4. parperback parper

      Re: CASH...CASH is the answer....

      Although they can work out where you live pretty easily.

      I have a dumb phone and a tablet.

  21. JohnFen Silver badge

    Good

    Here's hoping that Google takes a big hit for engaging in this deceptive nonsense.

  22. IceC0ld Silver badge

    Do as I say, NOT as i do

    Alphabet replaces Google’s ‘don’t be evil’ slogan with ‘do the right thing’

    ==

    the writing was on the wall the moment they dropped the 'don't be evil' schtick .............

    the new strapline leaves a LOT of leeway, and I suspect it will be taken to read, that the right thing is what benefits Google :o)

  23. GIRZiM

    Ban Google

    The Android market is completely fractured anyway: different OEMs delivering different hardware, different firmware, making all sorts of changes to the base OS, delivering updates (or not) as and when they see fit, there's no way to claim uniformity.

    So, why not say "Screw Google" as well as having that attitude?

    Ban Google's Android (if not Google altogether) in the EU, have a consortium standardise Android and all OEMs selling into the EU have to deliver that Android version (no exceptions).

    That way their sales really will be down to how good their hardware is and not simply a reflection of consumers' compromising between that and their preparedness to put up with some half-arsed attempt to 'add value' with software features nobody wants from a hardware manufacturer in the first place.

    And we will be in a position to decide what we really want to hand over and to whom because legislation will give us more rights and more power than we currently have.

    Google are not guaranteed, but likely, to make the transition to Fuchsia in a few years anyway, so now would be a golden opportunity for the E.U. to give Android a chance of becoming a genuinely F(L)OSS OS rather than continuing to be just yet another tool of Surveillance Capitalism.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Ban Google

      "there's no way to claim uniformity."

      Apart from the Google blobs embedded in the OS.

      1. GIRZiM

        Re: Ban Google

        > Apart from the Google blobs embedded in the OS.

        Yes, but that's like saying "apart from the shared culture of the West".

        Sure, compared to somewhere like China, Japan or even Russia, at a pinch, we in the West have shared 'blobs' of culture (wars we've fought amongst ourselves, U.S. Imperialism McDonalds in every town centre, etc.) but beyond that there are an awful lot of significant differences the firmware of English culture is pretty different to that of Spain, even if there is a shared framework of Roman Empire in the background of both.

        Likewise, my Motorola is not the same as your Sony and neither of us has access to Bixby.

        We have different cameras, different audio subsystems, different interfaces, different bloatware. Our devices may or may not have unlockable bootloaders and, even if they do, there may or may not be an alternative ROM available for them. We may get security updates on a regular basis or we may not. We may have devices by the same OEM but won't both get a piece of Pie when the time comes.

        There may be some uniformity thanks to the blobs, but even that is far from uniform.

    2. JohnFen Silver badge

      Re: Ban Google

      "have a consortium standardise Android and all OEMs selling into the EU have to deliver that Android version (no exceptions)."

      That sounds like a terrible idea to me. In my opinion, this diversity is a good thing overall, not a bad thing (even if it does complicate things a bit for certain app developers).

      1. GIRZiM

        Re: Ban Google

        > That sounds like a terrible idea to me.

        So, standards are a bad idea, is that what you're saying?

        You're opposed to the principle of Project Treble and think standardised security across devices is a bad thing?

        You think that UX/UI design principles should be ignored and a standard interface eschewed in favour of whatever a given OEM felt was a good idea at the time?

        You think OEMs should be free to install whatever bloatware they like (Facebook as a non-removable system application)?

        Me, I think those are terrible ideas and they spring from precisely the 'Wild West' free-for-all you're advocating.

        I don't often have much good to say about Microsoft, but one thing I won't fault them for is standardisation - I remember the days before them, when I couldn't exchange even a simple text file with you because your device didn't read files saved by my editor and wouldn't want to return there.

        There's a world of difference between what I'm suggesting (a core, uniformly functional OS, to which OEMs are free to offer whatever additional features they like but which none of us is obliged to have on our devices) and the fantasy monocultural dystopia you seem to imagine it portending.

  24. Claverhouse Silver badge
    Stop

    Anything but that...

    "...use location to improve the Google experience when they do things like perform a Google search or use Google for driving directions."

    STOP saying you do fucking crap to improve things, you bloody, bloody fools.

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