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Google's Privacy Sandbox accused of misleading Chrome browser users

Google's Privacy Sandbox accused of misleading Chrome browser users


Richard Speed ​​reports via The Register: Privacy activist noyb has filed a GDPR complaint about Google's Privacy Sandbox, alleging that turning on the “privacy feature” in the Chrome browser results in unwanted tracking by the US giant. The Privacy Sandbox API was introduced in 2023 as part of Google's grand plan to eliminate third-party tracking cookies. Rather than relying on those cookies, website developers can call the API to show ads tailored to users' interests. In the announcement, Google's vice president of the Privacy Sandbox initiative called it “an important step on the path to a radically more private web.”

But the problem, according to noyb, is that even though Privacy Sandbox is touted as an improvement over third-party tracking, it doesn't eliminate it. The tracking is done in the browser by Google itself. To comply with the rules, Google needs informed consent from users, and that's where the problems begin. Noyb wrote today that “Google's internal browser tracking was introduced to users in a pop-up that said 'Turn on ad privacy' after opening the Chrome browser. In the European Union, users can choose to 'turn it on' or say 'no thanks' and deny consent.” It's natural for users to think that turning on ad privacy will protect them from tracking. But what it actually does is turn on first-party tracking.

Max Schrems, chairman emeritus of noyb, argued that “Google simply lied to its users. People thought they were consenting to privacy features, but were tricked into accepting Google's first-party ad tracking. Consent is only lawful if it is informed, transparent and fair. Google has done the exact opposite.” noyb noted that Google had argued that “choosing to click 'Turn On' counts as consent to tracking under Article 6(1)(a) of the GDPR.”




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