Germany’s antitrust regulator, the so-called Bundeskartellamt, announced that it has issued objections against Google’s data processing terms, ordering the tech giant to move to comply with national antitrust laws.

The agency said that “the new provisions for large digital companies (Section 19a of the German Competition Act) are applicable and Google thus has to change its data processing terms and its associated practices”.

Andreas Mundt, President of the Bundeskartellamt, explained the action taken. “Google’s business model relies heavily on the processing of user data”, he stated. “Due to its established access to relevant data gathered from a large number of different services, Google enjoys a strategic advantage over other companies.”

Google’s practices must be measured against the requirements under the new competition rules for large digital companies”, he continued.The company has to give users sufficient choice as to how their data are processed.”

The German antitrust regulator has a record of pursuing US tech giants. Last November, the Bundeskartellamt went after Amazon for violating the same law.

‘Detailed profiling’ of users

The agency points out that, based on Google’s current terms, the company can combine a variety of data from various services and use them to create very detailed user profiles. Moreover, Google could then exploit those profiles for advertising and other purposes, such as training functions provided by services.

Moreover, the regulator says the tech giant’s terms set out that Google “may, for various purposes, collect and process data across services, for example by way of its numerous own, partly very widely used services, such as Google Search, YouTube, Google Play, Google Maps and Google Assistant, but also by way of numerous third-party websites and apps.”

The agency’s ‘statement of objections’ is what the regulator describes as “a first intermediate step”, which gives Google the opportunity to comment in detail on the authority’s preliminary assessment and to present further reasons justifying its practices or suggestions to dispel concerns.

The proceeding may result in the authority discontinuing the case, the tech giant offering commitments or the regulator prohibiting Google’s practices. A final decision in this matter is expected to be issued in 2023.