Friday, February 21, 2020

Google's Big ToS Update


In response to mounting legal pressures in the European Union, Google updated its Terms of Service on Thursday. It is the largest update since 2012. Most of the changes have to do with simplifying the verbiage but there are no other major changes as to how users' data is handled. Users are being requested to review and accept the new terms before March 31; otherwise you are not allowed to use Google services.


Some important changes are:


- As Britain leaves the European Union, the U.K. users will now legally be part of Google's U.S. operations rather than a separate European center in Ireland. Google maintains that this shift won’t change how U.K. customers’ data is protected or stored. Google confirmed that GDPR will continue to apply for U.K. users during the transition period between the old and new terms. After that U.K. data protection law will continue to apply.

- Google has added a description of how its business works to the About page. Google claims it is not “selling your information,” doesn’t use “your emails, documents, photos or confidential information (such as race, religion or sexual orientation) to personalize the ads we show you.” Though it could be using all that personal stuff to help it build new products for serving ads next to.


Regulatory Scrutiny

The changes in Google's ToS are in response to growing in EU political and regulatory pressure on data protection and antitrust grounds. This includes a case in Germany where consumer rights groups successfully sued the tech giant over its use of overly broad terms, which the court agreed last year were largely illegal. In another case a year ago in France, a court ordered Google to pay €30,000 for unfair terms — and ordered it to obtain valid consent from users for tracking their location and online activity. Since at least 2016 the European Commission  has also been pressuring tech giants, including Google, to fix consumer rights issues buried in their T&Cs — including unfair terms. A variety of EU laws apply in this area.