back to article GDPR stands for Google Doing Positively, Regardless. Webpage trackers down in Europe – except Big G's

In a US Senate hearing that went little reported this month, America's antitrust chiefs warned that Europe's tough General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) had benefited the companies it was designed to tame. A study out this week tracking activity on the top 2,000 sites used by netizens in Europe confirms it: in one respect …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Google is headed for a Republican beatdown

    The company and its employees are no friends of the Republican party, so now you have political appointees from the purportedly free-market party saying whatever they have to in justifying more scrutiny and perhaps enforcement action against Google. And why not? It's not like Google is going to do the Trump administration or congressional republicans any favors, regardless of what the republicans do.

    The only thing that will save Google from a regulatory colonoscopy is if the Dems take the house and senate in the upcoming mid-term elections.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Google is headed for a Republican beatdown

      Google also funds Republican politicians, and participates to right-wing groups. That the employees are left-wing is one thing, but the leadership knows how to grease both sides of the aisle.

    2. TheVogon

      Re: Google is headed for a Republican beatdown

      I think they will find very soon that it stands for Google Does Pay Reparations. Those GDPR fines are coming...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Google is headed for a Republican beatdown

        I think they will find very soon that it stands for Google Does Pay Reparations. Those GDPR fines are coming...

        Unfortunately they won't be very big. Because tosspot EU politicians know less than the sum of fuck all, they defined the MAXIMUM penalties as 4% of turnover. For a manufacturer, or commodity supplier that's really very, very bad news. If however you're a tech giant, that's noise. For Google's parent, their pre-tax profit is in the range of 20-25% of turnover. Realistically they'll get fined a fraction of the 4% anyway, so fines become simply a cost of doing business. Just like large banks everywhere, large US companies do what they want until they are ordered not to, and then pay any associated fines. These are simply a cost of doing business.

        GDPR won't stop Google, Facebook and Amazon doing what the hell they like, unless and until the enforced penalties include imprisonment of directors and a legal prohibition on doing business until regulatory standards are met. There's few precedents for that, so don't hold your breath on anything changing in our lifetimes (squared).

    3. Wade Burchette

      Re: Google is headed for a Republican beatdown

      The US has the best government money can buy. A large campaign contribution can make Congress look the other way. Or at least just have an inquiry whose real purpose is to look like they are doing something when they are doing nothing. This applies to both parties. Both of them answer to their corporate overlords first. Elections ain't cheap after all.

      1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

        Re: Google is headed for a Republican beatdown

        "The US has the best government money can buy."

        While completely and factually true, it overlooks the monor detail that some things can't be bought for money. A good government is one of those as it requires (at least in democracies) a well educated population.

        1. LucreLout

          Re: Google is headed for a Republican beatdown

          A good government is one of those as it requires (at least in democracies) a well educated population.

          The problem with that premise is that so very many Labour voters vote for them because great grandad did. You have whole families in the SPRoS (Socialist Peoples Republic of Sunderland) that have never voted for any other party in any general election. That isn't an education issue, its almost a religious problem.

          Now, as a floating voter, I can well understand why both Major and Brown were kicked into touch, but in Sunderland they genuinely believed what we needed was another 5 years of Gordon Brown wrecking the economy. They believed it based on something akin to faith, because certainly all the facts were screaming in the opposite direction - no reason was applied, so no benefit of education would accrue.

          I forget who said "Governments are like nappies: both must be changed often, and for the same reasons", but they were most assuredly correct.

    4. viscount

      Re: Google is headed for a Republican beatdown

      You misunderstand the GOP mindset. The GOP is always in favour of _big_ business, regardless of domain and political view. So for example, conservatives rail against the Hollywood libs, but GOP administrations will always do everything they can to protect their IP at home and abroad.

      This may seem contradictory. It is not as long as you understand the first principle of the GOP is to support big business. The actual business is of secondary importance. So expect Google to get a very easy ride indeed.

  2. Ken Hagan Gold badge

    Context-free study?

    The linked study doesn't appear to have any data for the period prior to April, so we've no idea whether the changes are new or merely the way things have been moving for ages. The data is perfectly consistent with GDPR working brilliantly and reversing (in the EU) a long-term trend towards tracking everyone everywhere that is still a problem in the US.

    And Google are an exception because they've made it perfectly clear that only a massive fine will persuade them to actually take this law seriously, so ...

  3. Irongut

    I'm not really surprised because the common Google provided cookie dialog doesn't actually have a way for you to opt out. It only allows you to dismiss the dialog or go to a page describing what Google claim they do with the data. I'm waiting for the EU to realise this and hit them with the massive fine stick.

    1. DropBear

      Which is exactly why NOYB jumped on them immediately as soon as GDPR went into effect. The only thing is, legal matters aren't exactly a "blink of an eye" business; but the complaints _are_ filed.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    is that because google-analytics are excluded from GDPR? I never see consent for them but they show up in scriptsafe and get blocked.

    1. m0rt

      Google analytics isn't excluded from GDPR, because google analytics doesn't exist in a vacuum, it is used on a website. So the owners of the website are the ones who are responsble from a GDPR point if view.

      THat is the short version. The long version means I would have to re-read stuff to parse it and write a few paragraphs, which a lot of consultants charge money for and, quite frankly, this is now a Saturday and I have other things I would rather do. Obviously not enough to avoid commenting rather vacuously on this thread.


      1. brym

        And I don't mind shouldering that responsibility as a maintainer of websites. By doing it myself, at least I know visitors will be given the option to decline ads, tracking and cookies without the threat of dark patterns.

        I'd want it that way, so that's what I code for. If it means a drop in ad revenue, or stats from Google Analytics, oh well. There's more than one way to skin a cat. And not at the expense of privacy.

        Also, nearly all of the tabloid websites use dark patterns to force at least one persistent method of harvesting. I read somewhere that consent shaming is illegal. Where are their fines?

      2. ExampleOne

        Google analytics isn't excluded from GDPR, because google analytics doesn't exist in a vacuum, it is used on a website. So the owners of the website are the ones who are responsble from a GDPR point if view.

        At least, that is what Google are claiming.

        However, AIUI, for Google Analytics, Google collect, collate, process, and store the data, on the website operators behalf. Now, I am not a lawyer, but that sounds very much like Google collect, etc...

        The courts will decide, and given Googles record on this one, I wouldn't be putting much confidence in their legal team winning. Afterall, they only managed to actually understand that the previous data protection rules didn't care where they source the data from when CJEU explained it to them, even though this was normally covered in Data Protection 101 for technical staff.

  5. ratfox

    It's not so surprising. This kind of regulations are typically more expensive for the small guys than the huge incumbents.

  6. Jay Lenovo

    Every breath you take

    Google: Your Twitter followers + 1.

    Google: Connects with you more than Facebook

    I "Shutter" to think(movie reference), if Google didn't have my back.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Google "is the industry standard"

    As someone who really really dislikes and distrusts web tracking, I have tried at work to flag up privacy-compliant alternatives to Google Analprobe, such as locally-hosted Matomo (formerly Piwik) web usage statistics, but have been shrugged off with pathetic excuses such as "Google is the industry standard and that's what everyone knows". At the same time, ironically some efforts have been made to de-fang Google Maps embeds (although course I suggested OpenStreetMap as an alternative), and YouTube embeds, but everyone else seems to love their equally unnecessary Google font and JavaScript APIs hosting, which seem to sneak in completely under the radar. It seems that some web developers just cannot wean themselves away from their Google fix, sadly.

    1. Mike 137 Silver badge

      Re: Google "is the industry standard"

      Thanks for pointing out the 'under the radar' tracking - this is much more serious than overt tracking widgets, as it's present on almost every page out there and occurs without even the dubious quid pro quo of being served annoying adverts. I've been trying to get the authorities to consider this for quite some time, but to no effect.

      However the whotracksme recommendations, apparently of automating regulatory compliance management ('This would enable browsers to assume the role they should have had baked in: a unified control center for the user to manage consent') just moves the responsibility from trackers to browser providers. The essence of the GDPR is control by the data subject over the processing of their personal data, and that goes way beyond consent alone - even as far as objecting in principle to a kind of processing on the basis of a philosophical position.

    2. brym

      Re: Google "is the industry standard"

      I haven't gone so far as offering alternatives yet. I'm working on it though. Mine's a simple Accept / Decline offer. With all the standard bloat delivered if they consent, and the choice to go off-site to the 3rd party media providers if they decline (embedded YouTube, tweets, etc). For now. And by default, none of the cookies, analytics, ads, etc get loaded in. Because how can you possibly have consented to any of that on a website you may be visiting for the first time?

      And don't even get me started on websites telling visitors that cookies are essential for websites to work effectively.

  8. LDS Silver badge

    Google ignores it, others can't get it right

    A site today, using TrustArc/TRUSTe: "Some opt-outs may fail due to your browsers cookies settings. If you would like to set opt-out preferences using this tool you must allow third party cookies in your browser settings." - so to increase privacy I have to decrease privacy? Opt-out? And of course a big "Accept And Proceed" button - it looks many in US didn't understand how to be GDPR compliant at all.

    It's no surprise many sites may have dropped services who just got in the way and had the only effect of driving visitors away.

  9. naive

    Why is anyone surprised, any regulation costs.

    Any legislation making products more complex benefits big companies, and drives the small ones extinct.

    Legislation raising the bar on products, makes it harder and more costly to develop them. Only big companies can afford to bear those costs.

    A good example are cars, since the Brussels politbureau ordered they have to be small tanks, development costs go into billions for a completely new model, killing off all smaller car manfacturers, increasing costs and limiting choice.

    But well, that is the sweet price we pay for EU communism.

  10. Rich 2

    GDPR and why Google isn't being sued

    Why isn't Google being sued by the EU? They quite blatantly play games with GDPR compliance (I'm sure many reading this have tried opting out of Goodle's tentacles and witnessed what a farce it is) and the EU (or whatever branch it is that is supposed to manage this stuff) should have started suing them on day on of GDPR.

    ...but they are not. Why?

    1. DropBear

      Re: GDPR and why Google isn't being sued

      They are. See my reply to Irongut above. Not entirely sure what the legal technicalities are regarding lawsuits vs. complaints to data protection authorities, but one should not forget this is THE Max Schrems we are talking about. I trust he knows what he's doing.

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