Google’s parent company, Alphabet Inc., has taken a promising step towards granting its users more control over how their data is processed. The move comes as a result of a proceedings by the Bundeskartellamt, Germany’s national competition regulator, using a new instrument under competition law. This tool allows the Bundeskartellamt to intervene when the competition is potentially threatened by large digital companies. Andreas Mundt, President of the Bundeskartellamt, expressed that this not only safeguards the users’ right to determine their data usage but also restrains Google’s data-driven market power.
The commitment primarily concerns situations where Google intends to combine personal data from one Google service with data from other services – either Google or non-Google. Google will be obligated, under the Digital Markets Act (DMA), to provide its users with the option to give free, specific, informed, and clear consent to the cross-service processing of their data. This means Google must provide options allowing users to decide how their data is combined, whilst avoiding manipulative prompts or “dark patterns”.
While this agreement covers multiple services including Gmail, Google News, Assistant, Contacts and Google TV, it does not extend to core platform services like Google Shopping, Google Play, Google Maps, Google Search, YouTube, Google Android, Google Chrome and Google’s online advertising services. However, these core services are already subject to similar obligations under the DMA. The Bundeskartellamt and the European Commission aim to continue their close cooperation to ensure that Google can proceed in a uniform manner.
This development is an important milestone in user data protection. It is part of broader proceedings against major tech companies including Amazon, Apple, Facebook (now Meta), Microsoft and Alphabet, based on new provisions under Section 19a GWB in force since January 2021. Altogether, these measures aim to maintain competition and user autonomy in an increasingly digital world.