Big Tech companies are frequently at loggerheads with privacy and antitrust regulators and in the most recent instance, Sweden’s privacy regulator has fined two companies over Google Analytics privacy breach.
The Swedish Authority for Privacy Protection (IMY) audited four companies – CDON, Coop, Dagens Industri, and Tele2 – over a version of Google Analytics from August 14, 2020.
It said, “The audits are based on complaints from the organisation None of Your Business (NOYB) in the light of the Schrems II ruling by the European Court of Justice (CJEU).”
It added, “The complaints allege that the companies, in violation of the law, transfer personal data to the United States.”
The regulator imposed a fine of $1.1 million on Tele2 and just under $30,000 on CDON. It ordered all four companies to stop using Google Analytics tools and added that Tele2 has already stopped using the tool on its own.
Sweden's privacy protection agency has ordered four companies to stop using Google Analytics to analyse web traffic, as doing so transfers personal data to the United States. https://t.co/ugZYkFaXMC
— The Local Sweden (@TheLocalSweden) July 4, 2023
In its ruling, the Swedish privacy regulator said, “In its audits, IMY considers that the data transferred to the US via Google’s statistics tool is personal data because the data can be linked with other unique data that is transferred.”
It added, “The authority also concludes that the technical security measures that the companies have taken are not sufficient to ensure a level of protection that essentially corresponds to that guaranteed within the EU/EEA.”
Meanwhile, in what could have wide-ranging implications, the IMY said that its ruling is not only restricted to the four companies it audited but would “provide guidance” to other companies as well.
The blog’s title “Companies must stop using Google Analytics” reflects what the IMY is trying to achieve with its ruling.
Sweden Data Protection Regulator Warns Companies Using Google Analytics
Sweden’s data protection regulator is concerned about the transfer of data to the US as the GDPR mandates that data of EU citizens can be transferred to countries that have adequate levels of protection for personal data on the lines of the EU – a condition that the US does not meet.
To be sure, the fine which is just above $1.1 million is quite small considering some of the other major decisions by regulators in Europe.
For instance, in May, the EU fined Meta Platforms $1.3 billion for violating the region’s privacy laws. It was the biggest fine imposed by EU regulators and over 50% higher than the previous record $806 million fine in Amazon in 2021.
US Big Tech companies especially Amazon, Meta Platform, and Alphabet have been at odds with European regulators over multiple issues.
Notably, Nvidia’s merger with Arm Holdings was called off amid opposition in the UK. The country’s regulators also blocked Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision Blizzard.
The EU is Also Working on AI Regulations
Another flashpoint between tech companies like Google and European regulators could be about AI regulations.
The EU is working on comprehensive AI regulations which it is expected to unveil later this year. The UK’s competition watchdog is also working on AI regulations while the country’s Prime Minister has proposed a global summit on AI regulations in the fall of this year.
There is widespread optimism over AI and investors have poured money into companies that are seen as AI plays. The euphoria helped trigger a rally in US tech stocks and the Nasdaq had its best first-half performance in four decades.
While listed AI stocks have soared in 2023, the venture capital (VC) funding data tells a different story.
Global AI venture funding plunged in Q1 2023 in line with the slump in the overall VC industry. According to Crunchbase, global VC funding into AI startups fell 43% YoY to $5.4 billion in the first quarter of the year.
However, in what looks encouraging for AI companies, Crunchbase noted that eight of the 38 unicorns in the first five months of this year are AI companies.
All said the friction between tech giants like Google and privacy regulators might only intensify in the coming months as countries contemplate AI regulations.
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