In what seems like a never ending battle between Google and European countries, another attack has been made against the search giant. This time Italy is telling Google that they must be more transparent to users about how search history and other digital data is being used to help display ads. In addition, Italy wants Google to tell their users how this information is used and ask them to opt-in (rather than opt out) of the program.
Of course, Google has no desire to do this since the vast majority of their profits come from their ads. And their ads are only successful because of the fact that they are so targeted. Google faced a similar issue in France in 2013, and refused to comply with the request. After it went to court, they were ordered to post a notice on their home page about the non-compliance of the ruling, and pay a large (though insignificant to Google) fine.
According to a report from Reuters, “The Rome-based regulator said Google would not be allowed to use the data to profile users without their prior consent and would have to tell them explicitly that the profiling was being done for commercial purposes. It also demanded that requests from users with a Google account to delete their personal data be met in up to two months.”
Google has 18 months to review the ‘request’ made by the Italian agency and appeal if necessary. It seems unlikely that they will win any appeals. It also seems quite unlikely that they will comply with the mandate, since it would make it extremely difficult for them to make money in the country. After all, it is hard to get internet users to opt-in to this type of thing en-mass.
At this point, Google will most likely ride the 18 months out with little action taken, and then pay the fine to the Italian government. To some, this seems like little more than a ‘cost of business’ fee that Google is being forced to pay for operating in Italy and other EU countries.