Google has reached an agreement with Italy's AGCM competition watchdog to make it easier for users to move their data to other platforms. The deal follows an investigation by the Italian AGCM regulator into Google's data portability practices, which found that the tech giant was hindering users from switching to rival services.
Data portability is the right of users to access and transfer their personal data from one platform to another, without losing functionality or quality. It is seen as a way to promote competition and innovation in the digital market, as well as to empower users and protect their privacy.
According to the Italian regulator, Google was violating data portability rules by imposing technical and contractual restrictions on users who wanted to move their data from Google services, such as Gmail, Photos, Drive, and Calendar, to other platforms. For example, Google did not allow users to export their contacts and calendar events in a standard format, or to sync their photos and videos with third-party cloud storage providers.
Under the agreement, Google has committed to remove these barriers and to implement a number of measures to improve data portability for its users in Italy.
Google's Data Portability Concessions
- Providing users with clear and accessible information on how to export and transfer their data to other platforms, and on the implications of doing so.
- Enabling users to export their contacts and calendar events in a standard format that can be easily imported by other platforms.
- Allowing users to sync their photos and videos with third-party cloud storage providers, such as Dropbox, OneDrive, and iCloud, without losing quality or functionality.
- Offering users the option to delete their data from Google services after they have transferred it to another platform.
- Cooperating with other platforms and industry associations to develop common standards and best practices for data portability.
Google's History of Regulatory Fines
Google has a history of breaking the rules and paying the price. The tech giant has faced many fines from regulators around the world for abusing its market power and violating competition laws. Most of these fines have come from Europe, where Google has been accused of manipulating its search results, restricting its Android partners, and harming consumers and rivals.
In 2017, Google had to pay a whopping $2.7 billion for favoring its own shopping service over others in its search results. This was the largest fine ever imposed by the European Commission at the time. But it was not the last one. In 2018, Google faced an even bigger fine of $4.34 billion for forcing Android device makers and network operators to pre-install its apps and services. This was the largest antitrust fine in history.
Google also had to deal with legal troubles in the US, where it agreed to pay a record-breaking $391.5 million settlement to 40 states in November 2022. The states had sued Google for secretly tracking users' locations even when they turned off their location settings. This was seen as a violation of users' privacy and a way for Google to gain an unfair advantage over its competitors. Last month, Google was ordered to pay $338.7 million in damages in a patent infringement case brought by small tech company Touchstream Technologies.