Publisher Group Blasts Google Over Forcing GDPR Liability On Small Publishers

A couple of months ago, Google indicated how they intend to comply with the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which came into effect in May 2018.

The new GDPR law addresses the years old legal question concerning the use and ownership of data created by visitors when they interact with websites. Google’s response to this new GDPR law was to publish a letter to its partners and publishers informing them of their responsibilities in informing and obtaining consent from users of their websites and apps. This caused a furor as publishers accuse the search engine giant of shifting the responsibility of managing the process on to the shoulders of publishers and partners when they are the one using the data more.

Since the receipt of the letter from Google, publishers have decried the way Google intend to handle the process even going as far as releasing a 5 page letter jointly written by at least 4 major publisher groups addressed to the Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google.

The basic message of the joint letter is that the group is not impressed with Google’s proposal which they say will undermine the primary purpose of the GDPR, making it difficult for publishers to fulfill the letter and spirit of the law. The letter signed by the group made up of The European Publishers Council, Digital Content Next, News Media Association and News Media Alliance altogether representing about 4000 media and newspaper companies located primarily in Europe and North America, including the Telegraph Media Group, New York Time, Axel Springer, Thomas Reuters and Associated Press ended by posing a series of questions to Google.

These questions which they say they need answers to include:

  • How and why Google believes it can legally play the role of data controller in relationship to publishers’ data?
  • Will the search engine giant will seek and receive publishers’ input before making future changes to its terms concerning accessing advertisers’ services?
  • How Google’s services can be integrated into an industry accepted management platform should the publishers decide to make use of one?

The publishers also accuse of Google of anti-competitive tendencies because the proposal states that Google may stop placing ads on a publishers’ websites if it feels that their compliance with the new rule is insufficient.

“Google wants to eat its cake and have it” says Executive Director of the European Publishers Council, Angela Mills Wade. “It wants to control data provided by publishers without the accompanying legal liability and with the total freedom to do what it likes with the data, Google is essentially preventing publishers from choosing which partner to work with by imposing their personal standard for regulatory compliance” she said.

Other players in the digital advertising industry also express concern that Google is pushing publishers to interpret the GDPR only the way Google themselves see it.

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