Publishers Express Discontent Over Google’s GDPR Plan

A group of international publishers is dissatisfied over Google’s compliance strategy for the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) privacy rules. Set to take effect on May 25, the rules require companies to gain explicit consent for personal data collection and use for ad targeting.

The trade groups, namely, Digital Content Next, European Publishers Council, News Media Alliance, and News Media Association, published an open letter addressed to Google CEO Sundar Pichai on April 30. In it, they criticized the tech giant for passing on an unreasonable burden to them in exchange for continued access to its advertising services.

Google outlined its consent plan on its AdWords blog in late March. However, the publishers protested that the plan was revealed too late and encumbered them with the bulk of the compliance responsibilities. As publishers using Google ad services, they have to obtain consent directly from EU users. They expressed their discontent in the open letter:

“As the major provider of digital advertising services to publishers, we find it especially troubling that you would wait until the last minute before the GDPR comes into force to announce these terms, as publishers have now little time to assess the legality or fairness of your proposal and how best to consider its impact on their own GDPR compliance plans, which have been underway for a long time.” 

Under the new privacy framework, there are stricter consent requirements for processing personal data collected from EU users. It protects the rights of EU citizens regarding how their data can be used. The law will also impose hefty fines and significant legal liabilities for noncompliance or mishandling of user data, which will likely fall on the publishers’ shoulders.

However, the groups pointed out that Google’s singular approach in ensuring compliance from its publishers and advertisers is inaccurate. They added that it only protects Google’s existing business model, given its dominance in online advertising.

According to the group, Google wants to identify itself as a data controller and asks publishers to share their gathered data. For its other ad services like Google Analytics, the company considers itself a data processor but with extensive rights over gathered information.

The publishers underscored the lack of transparency under the compliance plan. They are wary of Google’s reluctance to provide specific information about its planned use of data, a must in obtaining legal consent under GDPR.

But Google pointed out that it will only use the data for testing algorithms, enhancing user experiences, and improving the accuracy of its ad forecasting system.  Google clarified in a statement:

“Because we make decisions on data processing to help publishers optimize ad revenue, we will operate as a controller across our publisher products in line with GDPR requirements, but this designation does not give us any additional rights to their data.”

The tech giant also added that the draft on guidance consent was released in December and continues to be revised, prompting Google to put out the new ad policy only this year.

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