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Does Google’s Ad Business Violate EU Privacy Laws?

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The question of whether Google’s (GOOGL) ad business violates EU privacy laws returned to headlines this week. On Wednesday, Brave Software published what it calls fresh evidence of Google’s violations of the EU’s GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation).

Brave’s Internet browser, which emphasizes privacy, competes with Google’s Chrome browser. Brave has been a big critic of Google’s privacy practices.

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In September 2018, a few months after the GDPR took effect, Brave complained to EU data protection authorities about Google, claiming that Google’s practices violated the GDPR. The EU regulation restricts how companies collect and use people’s personal information online. Several big tech companies are facing investigations into whether their practices respect the GDPR. After receiving Brave’s complaint, Ireland’s data protection watchdog opened an investigation into the matter this May.

Brave claims Google’s ad business violates EU privacy law

This week, Brave tried to reinforce its privacy violation charges against Google. It claims to have uncovered how Google circumvents GDPR restrictions for the benefit of its advertising business. Specifically, Brave claims to have found that Google secretly shares people’s personal information with outside companies, some of which use the information to inform their targeted advertising campaigns.

If the investigation finds that Google’s ad business is violating EU privacy law, then the company would be in big trouble. The GDPR allows regulators to impose fines of up to 4.0% of a company’s worldwide annual revenue. Google generated over $136 billion in revenue globally last year from advertising, hardware, cloud computing services, and other businesses. Therefore, Google could face a fine of more than $5.4 billion if found to be on the wrong side of the law. EU antitrust regulators have already hit Google with fines close to $10 billion since 2017.

A $5.4 billion fine could significantly pressure Google’s finances, potentially impacting the company’s investment and development plans. Google has been investing in building new undersea cable networks and data centers to expand its cloud computing business. In the lucrative cloud market, Google lags behind Amazon and Microsoft.

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