back to article Christmas is coming, the goose is getting fat, so the EU is investigating Google to get some more money in its hat

The European Commission has confirmed it is carrying out yet another investigation into whether Google has abused its market position, this time digging into the search giant’s data collection around local search and ads. “The Commission has sent out questionnaires as part of a preliminary investigation into Google’s practices …

  1. macjules Silver badge
    Big Brother

    Wonder where I heard that before?

    We use data to make our services more useful and to show relevant advertising, and we give people the controls to manage, delete or transfer their data,

    Ah yes, Facebook, Twitter et al, "where you are always in control of your own data".

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Wonder where I heard that before?

      Indeed.

      Yes you can delete your data but you can bet that the likes of Google, Fartbook etc will have milked it dry within seconds of you posting something. Once that is done, they really don't care if you delete it or not.

      Just avoid them all. Come off Social Media and use a different search engine front end.

      Oh, and don't use Chrome.

      Starve them of data.

      And remember those tweets from 6 or more years ago can come back to bite you hard in later life.

      Careless Tweets cost you Money!

      1. Rich 2 Silver badge

        Re: Wonder where I heard that before?

        "Come off Social Media and use a different search engine front end."

        Excellent advice. Unfortunately, it seems that 90%+ of websites include links to google, whether it's their "analytics" spyware, or capcha API or various other stuff. You can usually block the "anaytics" without causing any problems but if you block access to google's APIs then the website you want to view will usually not work correctly.

        It's getting extremely difficult to avoid googlies. But that was always their plan, wasn't it?

        It's not helped by the looooooooong-winded, limp, narrow court cases that result is a "2 minutes-worth of profit" fine each time. They need to be fined MANY BILLIONS, and their chiefs need to go to jail. Only then might things change.

        1. LeahroyNake Silver badge

          Re: Wonder where I heard that before?

          I propose that if the website doesn't work when blocking Facebook and goggle etc then maybe people should duck duck go to another website.

        2. Lomax
          Alert

          Re: Wonder where I heard that before?

          > It's getting extremely difficult to avoid googlies.

          Six simple steps to get you there:

          • Pay for an email service from a trusted provider
          • Use the Firefox web browser
          • Enable "Tracking Protection" in the preferences
          • Install the NoScript add-on
          • Install the UBlock Origin add-on
          • Make a donation to the above projects

          1. Carpet Deal 'em Bronze badge

            Re: Wonder where I heard that before?

            And reCAPTCHA? I have to enable Google scripts every time that comes up(which is far too often).

            1. Lomax
              Big Brother

              Re: Wonder where I heard that before?

              Yeah, Google's reCAPTCHA pisses me off. Also forces you to participate in honing Alphabet's self-driving car / image reconition algorithms :( Any third party script which is referenced across a significant percentage of sites (and is required for sites to function) is bad - you basically have no other option but to let them track your movements across the web. From Wikipedia:

              > Usage of reCAPTCHA, since its acquisition by Google, is subject to Google's general privacy policy, which essentially requires the user to consent to collection of vast amounts of personal data in order to use websites protected by reCAPTCHA.

              I would encourage web developers to think twice before implementing such a solution - self-hosting those libraries is a much better option. This includes fonts. If you need a CAPTCHA mechanism look into self-hosted options such as Invisible Captcha.

              Big Brother, becuase he really is watching you.

  2. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    $40.6bn in earnings before tax

    So the solution is simple : fine it $40bn. That will get its attention.

    1. ForthIsNotDead
      Thumb Up

      Re: $40.6bn in earnings before tax

      I was thinking the same thing while reading the article. Have a look at the accounts that they file in the EU, determine their annual income for the particular market segment that they are in violation of, and fine them that much. Annually. Until they stop being total twats.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: $40.6bn in earnings before tax

      and $30.8bn after tax

      Are we sure this is the same Google we're talking about? You know, the one that people complain doesn't pay enough tax?

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: $40.6bn in earnings before tax

      The proper sign here would be €, but that's a minor quibble :)

    4. DaveDaveDave

      Re: $40.6bn in earnings before tax

      The EU has no power to force Google to pay fines. Google would decide it isn't worth it and pull out of serving the EU. The bureaucrats responsible would probably be lynched.

      1. The obvious

        Re: $40.6bn in earnings before tax

        I’d quite like google to pull out of the EU. It’s about time we techies learned not to keep creating new tech monopolies.

  3. big_D Silver badge
    Mushroom

    Not asked to opt-in

    The one big thing, from a GDPR point-of-view, I have never been asked by Google to opt-in to their tracking - so either they aren't tracking me, or they are in contravention of the GDPR.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Not asked to opt-in

      There is the problem, its supposed to be opt-in but most are doing it opt-out. For example Microsoft with visual studio code:

      "Making it easier to opt out of telemetry collection by placing a notification in product for all existing and new users."

      New installation of windows requires you to opt-out of sending all data (can't actually opt-out).

      So the rules are there, but the big companies don't follow them, or act dumb when asked about it and say you can opt-out.

      They say that they can't ID you or your data, yet they also say a unique ID is given to each install and attached to the data sent.

      I know this is Microsoft and this article is Google, but they are all the same.

    2. Khaptain Silver badge

      Re: Not asked to opt-in

      BIG_D.

      If you use chrome then it's more than likely that you have must have clicked on their "I Agree to die by Google" button on their EULA when starting Chrome.

      And if you don't use Chrome then quite simply your are simply being shafted like the rest of us, either through Android, Gmail or any of the other multiple Alphabet direct or indirect assets..

      If you take Google to court I am convinced that they will provide evidence that you agreed, knowingly or otherwise...

      1. big_D Silver badge

        Re: Not asked to opt-in

        I don't use Chrome and I don't use Google's web presences, where I can avoid them.

        Also, the Chrome EULA does not count as an opt-in, because it cannot be dismissed without accepting it, therefore it cannot be used as an opt-in - opt-in explicitly states that you cannot stop the person using the service if they opt-out of personal data collection.

    3. Dinanziame
      Meh

      Re: Not asked to opt-in

      As I understand it, every time you visit a website and you get this cookies warning, it covers your acceptance of the Google cookie on that website.

      For Google's properties, I can only assume they somehow request and get approval for having an account, and point you towards their privacy settings to choose whatever options you want. No idea how that works.

      It's probably going to take a while before we get clarity on this though. Like, ten years.

      1. big_D Silver badge

        Re: Not asked to opt-in

        It depends, if it says "we use cookies, click OK to continue", that is no longer legally acceptable. You have to be able to opt-in to using cookies, they have to be disabled by default and once you agree (and clicking "OK", when there is no other option is not opt-in), they can be turned in all or part on - good sites list all the cookies the site uses and allows you turn them on and off as you will.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Not asked to opt-in

      Beware free, there's always a price to pay.

  4. codejunky Silver badge

    Hmm

    Maybe it is so the EU can try to fund its own competitor to google. Or maybe to just fund the EU.

  5. Claverhouse Silver badge
    Happy

    Old Pals' Act

    Google's response in every case has been to fight on every front. It has appealed all the fines, resisted making any changes, and, rivals say, distorted whatever changes it has made in order to maintain its control.

    In the Google Shopping case, the tech giant only submitted a compliance plan three hours before its 60-day deadline. It appealed the decision. And it made changes that rivals said were effectively worthless, prompting them, last year, to ask the European Commission to find the company in non-compliance of the EU’s decision.

    Just last week, those same companies reiterated the same concerns - that Google was “artfully avoiding compliance with the law”

    Well, Boris Johnson is guaranteed a job for life once he's kicked out by the voters.

  6. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    What happens if Google's contracts have NDA clauses in them? Do the questionnaires have sufficient force of law behind them to override such clauses?

  7. tiggity Silver badge

    At least this one is a worthwhile action by the EU.

    The shopping comparison thing was silly.

    Much as I regard Google as a data hoovering evil entity I admit I use some Google products (e.g. I'm not spending huge money on an iPhone so have cheap Android device, use a variety of search engines, including Google as often a surprising difference on results from different sources) I thought the shopping comparison prosecution was a bit flimsy.

    If I use Google search engine then I expect them to promote their products (much as when I use Bing, I expect the location map data to be shown via MS product of Bing maps not some 3rd party maps) so seemed fair enough Google promoted its comparison tools (not that I ever see price comparison of any sort in my searches, but I'm not searching to shop)

    .. Everyone knows a search engine in itself is loss making, so you have to monetise in other ways e.g. ads, pushing other products you sell or you go under (like my old favourite loss making public search engine front end of Northern Light did)

    The shopping site approach ran the risk of some people feeling a bit sympathetic / understanding of Google (e.g. me), best sticking to stuff like this where a chance of finding out no quibble 100% evilness going on and so generating zero sympathy for Google.

    When there are so many obvious 100& nasty areas to target on the big tech companies, no point going after "grey areas" as that just lets them try and say they are being unfairly targeted.

  8. hellwig

    $$$

    As long as Google makes more profit in Europe than the EU fines it, this will continue. The second the EU tips over that balance, Google will just cut them off. What will the EU do without the internet then? Oh wait, Google isn't the internet.

    You can't simultaneously argue that Google is unfairly gaining an advantage, but then CONTINUE to use Google services because they have the greatest market share, that's just hypocritical.

    I was always bothered by the whole Android decision. Google creates Android, releases it for free so anyone can use it (i.e. Cyanogen). But if you want Google's services you have to use Google's services. Not sure why anyone thinks the Google Play Store should be free and open to all. It's literally a store with Google's name on it. But installing Google's search is too high a price to pay for access to Google's Play Store? Switch your phone over to a competitor like Amazon if you don't like it.

    I guess Google should have followed Apple's lead. Never give something away when you can charge a premium for it AND somehow avoid most of the antitrust decisions levied on your competitors. Oh wait, that didn't work for Microsoft with Windows/IE. I'm starting to question what exactly the EU is trying to prove here. It's almost like it's not the actual practice, just who does it.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: $$$

      I partially agree.

      What the EU is fighting against is not the practice of giving or not giving, it's the abuse of a dominant position, however it is acquired.

      That's a very clear thing: one company that is not in a dominant position can legally do things that another one that is, can't. Context matters.

      Apple so far either never had a dominant position on a market the way Google does with search, or MS did with browsers, or never abused it as blatantly as those two did.

      But they did do some funky tax things, and did get slapped heavily for that, so it's not like they're the EU little darling either.

    2. Carpet Deal 'em Bronze badge
      FAIL

      Re: $$$

      Google makes money from the Play store directly; demanding the other apps be installed if phone makers want to include it(which is a given) is nothing more than a method of killing competition for Google's apps and forcing people to spend as much time in and leak as much data to their ecosystem as possible.

      What makes this different from Apple is that there's no iOS market, whereas Android is a market unto itself. Were this not so(ie, if Android were only ever on Google devices), we wouldn't be having this discussion due to everybody continuing to have their own bespoke OS for their own devices.

  9. naive

    The EU Commission tells google not to pay taxes in the EU, but tip them off instead

    Could have been an alternative headline for this article.

    Isn't it funny, the same EU commission preventing effective taxation of Big Tech in the EU, keeps asking for tips in return for the favor.

    I am sure google will be happy to toss some change at the EU Commission in return for taxation of less than 5% for its profits, in a market where the average middle class worker is taxed between 50%-70%.

    1. codejunky Silver badge

      Re: The EU Commission tells google not to pay taxes in the EU, but tip them off instead

      @naive

      "I am sure google will be happy to toss some change at the EU Commission in return for taxation of less than 5% for its profits, in a market where the average middle class worker is taxed between 50%-70%."

      That would be comparing a company (not a person) against workers (people). Companies of course dont pay tax, it is people that do so any company taxation at all is taken from people. So if the average middle class worker is taxed as you say, their pension being invested in companies, their employment likely dependent on companies and a large part of economic transactions done by companies then surely we want companies to pay less tax?

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