Google has assured a more conservative approach to user data processing following proceedings initiated by the German Federal Cartel Office (Bundeskartellamt). These commitments center on the methods in which user data is processed by Google and the liberty users have over their data usage. The move follows the modification of German competition law in 2021 that facilitated regulators with better options for controlling large digital organizations. According to the Bundeskartellamt, the revised regulation is a “testament to the close cooperation between the Bundeskartellamt and the European Commission on the way to achieving more competition and fair markets in the digital sector.”
The Bundeskartellamt initiated a review of Google's data processing procedures in January 2023. Andreas Mundt, President of the Bundeskartellamt, stated, “Data is the key for the many business models used by the large digital companies.” He emphasized that Google's superior market power stemmed from data collection, processing, and combination. The move is expected to help Google's competitors who lack this extensive data, thereby reducing their competitive disadvantages.
Google Required to Obtain User Consent
Free and informed consent has to be obtained from users before data can be shared between different services. This cross-sharing involves data integration between different Google services or third-party services. Mundt said, “We ensure that Google will provide a separate choice option to users in the future.”
Interestingly, these commitments echo the EU's Digital Markets Act (DMA), where Alphabet, Google's parent company, was identified as a gatekeeper with other giants such as Apple, Amazon, ByteDance, Meta, and Microsoft. The Bundeskartellamt also acknowledged this parallel and stated that the commitments will not cover services already enlisted by the European Commission. The DMA focuses on popular services such as Search, Maps, and YouTube, whereas the Bundskartellamt's commitments extend to others like News, Android Auto, and Workspace.
Implementation Plans and Timelines
As per the commitments, Google is stopped from combining or cross-using data from different services unless it obtains user consent. This must be freely provided without jeopardizing services if a user denies it, and users should be able to revoke their consent easily. An implementation plan regarding the same has been asked from Google within three months, and these commitments are expected to be implemented in full by March 6, 2024, for Assistant and Contacts, and by September 30, 2024, for all other services