On 23 December 2022, the Bundeskartellamt (German competition authority) sent Alphabet Inc. (Mountain View, USA), Google Ireland Ltd. (Dublin, Ireland) and Google Germany GmbH (Hamburg, Germany) its preliminary legal assessment in the proceeding initiated due to Google’s data processing terms.
The Bundeskartellamt assumes that the new provisions for large digital companies are applicable and Google thus has to change its data processing terms and its associated practices.
Based on its current terms, Google can combine a variety of data from various services and use them, for example, to create very detailed user profiles which the company can exploit for advertising and other purposes, or to train functions provided by services.
The company’s terms set out that Google may, for various purposes, collect and process data across very widely used services such as Google Search, YouTube, Google Play, Google Maps and Google Assistant, as well as third-party websites and apps or even Google’s background services like Google Play.
The Bundeskartellamt has reached the preliminary conclusion that, based on the current terms, users are not given sufficient choice as to whether and to what extent they agree to this far-reaching processing of their data across services. The choices offered so far, if any, are, in particular, not sufficiently transparent and too general.
At this stage of the proceeding, the company now has the opportunity to comment in detail on the authority’s preliminary assessment and to present further reasons justifying its practices or suggestions to dispel the Bundeskartellamt’s concerns.
The proceeding may result in the authority discontinuing the case, the company offering commitments or the competition authority prohibiting Google’s practices. A final decision in this matter is expected to be issued in 2023.