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Google is in a regulatory hot seat – but your private data is (mostly) not the issue

Google is not sitting pretty with regulators on both sides of the Atlantic for its alleged monopolistic business practices and handling of personal data. But unless you live in the EU, the debate isn’t over protecting your data and online privacy. The real American debate is over how Google is dominating the search and online ad market, potentially raising costs and reducing access for other market players — to use your data.

Your privacy is not the biggest issue in the USA

The attorney generals of 48 states – everyone but Alabama and California – are getting together to investigate Google and its parent company for allegedly monopolistic business practices. “Right now it’s about advertising, but the facts will lead where they lead,” said Texas attorney general Ken Paxton at the kickoff press conference. The move – by a combination of both Democrats and Republicans – shows that there is some serious concern at the state level over Google’s all-embracing position when it comes to search, online ads, and the slicing and dicing of your private data.

This is not the only Google investigation going on. The Federal Department of Justice is looking into prior antitrust investigations into Google. The House Judiciary Committee is looking into Google’s activities in the internet search market. And, Google also just paid a $170 million fine to the FTC over its collection and use of children’s data. While the direction of these investigations can change, it is clear that data protection is not the biggest issue.

Irish eyes are not smiling at Google

On the European side of the pond, Google is getting a more data-centric examination. The Irish Data Protection Commission (DPC) – the lead EU bureaucracy for looking into data violations by American tech companies – started an investigation of Google’s processing of personal data via its online Ad Exchange. This system basically collects information about the browsing activities and interests of individuals, somehow anonymizes it, then sells it almost live to potential advertisers. Theoretically, if a person is looking online for health issues and ways to recover from a nasty bug … they might be a good target for a cough syrup ad at that very moment. Google has sworn this can be done without breaching the GDPR restrictions on user privacy.

However Brave, a privacy-focused browser developer, is claiming that Google is actually broadcasting personal data in a way that breaks those European (but not American) laws. Brave’s CEO XXXX Ryan has sent the Irish regulators details about how his own private data was spewed across the internet. Technically called a push page, it enables Google to send information with an identifier number about an individual’s activities to advertisers and data brokers. Once sold, these parties are then able to play with the data and determine a person’s real identity claims Ryan. Google has said this info is merely “a parameter for measuring end-to-end latency.”

Ah, the Europeans also have their antitrust concerns beyond the data

Data privacy is not the only EU concern when it comes to Google. The EU commissioner Margarethe Vestager, source of Apple’s $14 billion tax bill is not going away and will gain additional regulatory powers.  While Ryan may or may not convince the data regulators, Google has issues to worry about.

As a PR Consultant and journalist, Frink has covered IT security issues for a number of security software firms, as well as provided reviews and insight on the beer and automotive industries (but usually not at the same time). Otherwise, he’s known for making a great bowl of popcorn and extraordinary messes in a kitchen.