ICO to investigate Google over GDPR violations

The Google logo on a smartphone display
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) is looking into whether Google has violated the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

The UK's data watchdog said it is working with other regulators around Europe to consider its next possible steps after a number of complaints had been raised.

Last month, the French regulator (CNIL) hit the tech giant with a landmark 50 million fine following complaints from two organisations, noyb.eu (the European Center for Digital Rights or None of Your Business) and LQDN (La Quadrature du Net).

The issues related to Google's 'forced consent' push via pop-up boxes, also used by Facebook. It requires users to agree to data collection in order to access the sites and apps, which the privacy groups first filled complaints about in May 2018, less than a week after GDPR came into force.

Max Schrems, who serves as chair of noyb.eu, said at the time: "Many users do not know yet that this annoying way of pushing people to consent is actually forbidden under GDPR in most cases.

"Facebook has even blocked accounts of users who have not given consent. In the end, users only had the choice to delete the account or hit the 'agree' button - that's not a free choice, it more reminds us of a North Korean election process."

On Monday Facebook celebrates 15 years and last year Google turned 20, but how both tech companies operate, and many others, is under greater scrutiny than ever before with the introduction of GDPR.

Since it came into force, the ICO said it has seen an increase in complaints being raised. This is mainly due to people becoming more informed about their rights and exercising them, which has generated greater engagement as organisations seek out the ICO for advice.

"Following the notice of the French supervisory authority (CNIL) to fine Google, the ICO is currently reviewing the notice to consider its content and possible next steps," said an ICO spokesperson. "The ICO is also liaising with other data protection authorities across Europe on this topic.

"Google is an organisation that offers products and services to a large number of individuals both in the UK and worldwide. We have received complaints regarding Google which are being reviewed."

Bobby Hellard

Bobby Hellard is ITPro's Reviews Editor and has worked on CloudPro and ChannelPro since 2018. In his time at ITPro, Bobby has covered stories for all the major technology companies, such as Apple, Microsoft, Amazon and Facebook, and regularly attends industry-leading events such as AWS Re:Invent and Google Cloud Next.

Bobby mainly covers hardware reviews, but you will also recognize him as the face of many of our video reviews of laptops and smartphones.