Google, Microsoft, and Facebook's GDPR settings 'dupe' users into sharing data

Consumer group brands the firms "unethical" in how they present privacy-centric options

Microsoft, Google and Facebook have been accused of deliberately pushing their users away from selecting privacy-centric options in their services in a fashion deemed "unethical" by the Norwegian Consumer Council.

Studying the tech giants' GDPR privacy settings in its Deceived by Design report, the council came to the conclusion that "dark patterns" were being used to supposedly lead users into selecting settings that do not benefit their privacy.

Advertisement - Article continues below

The report noted that such patterns included the use of misleading wording and default settings that were intrusive to privacy, as well as settings that end up "giving users an illusion of control" and hide away privacy-friendly options, as well as present "take-it-or-leave-it choices".

"Facebook and Google have privacy intrusive defaults, where users who want the privacy friendly option have to go through a significantly longer process," the report noted.

"They even obscure some of these settings so that the user cannot know that the more privacy intrusive option was preselected.

"The pop-ups from Facebook, Google and Windows 10 have design, symbols and wording that nudge users away from the privacy-friendly choices. Choices are worded to compel users to make certain choices, while key information is omitted or downplayed."

Facebook, according to the report, gives the impression that its users have more control over their data than they actually do, while Google's privacy and security dashboard was found to be difficult to navigate, with a maze of options presented to users.

Advertisement
Advertisement - Article continues below
Advertisement - Article continues below

The council did acknowledge that the trio's privacy settings do drill down into the granular details associated with GDPR data collection permissions, but said that at the same time they try to nudge or push consumers towards sharing as much data as possible.

"The combination of privacy-intrusive defaults and the use of dark patterns nudge users of Facebook and Google, and to a lesser degree Windows 10, towards the least privacy-friendly options to a degree that we consider unethical," the report added.

"We question whether this is in accordance with the principles of data protection by default and data protection by design, and if consent given under these circumstances can be said to be explicit, informed and freely given."

Google responded with a widely reported statement, noting it builds privacy and security into its products from the get-go.

"Over the last 18 months, in preparation for the implementation of the EU's new data protection regulation, we have taken steps to update our products, policies and processes to provide all our users with meaningful data transparency and straightforward controls across all our services," a spokesperson for the search giant said.

Advertisement - Article continues below

"We're constantly evolving these controls based on user experience tests - in the last month alone, we've made further improvements to our Ad Settings and Google Account information and controls."

Facebook's response was on the same lines, a spokesperson saying: "We have prepared for the past 18 months to ensure we meet the requirements of the GDPR. We have made our policies clearer, our privacy settings easier to find and introduced better tools for people to access, download, and delete their information."

A Microsoft spokesperson told the BBC: "We have seen the report from Norway and would like to reinforce that we are committed to GDPR compliance across our cloud services, and provide GDPR-related assurances in our contractual commitments."

Featured Resources

Top 5 challenges of migrating applications to the cloud

Explore how VMware Cloud on AWS helps to address common cloud migration challenges

Download now

3 reasons why now is the time to rethink your network

Changing requirements call for new solutions

Download now

All-flash buyer’s guide

Tips for evaluating Solid-State Arrays

Download now

Enabling enterprise machine and deep learning with intelligent storage

The power of AI can only be realised through efficient and performant delivery of data

Download now
Advertisement
Advertisement

Recommended

Visit/security/privacy/355048/government-may-trace-covid-19-patients-using-mobile-phone-data
privacy

UK government may trace COVID-19 patients using mobile phone data

20 Mar 2020
Visit/policy-legislation/general-data-protection-regulation-gdpr/354842/irish-data-regulator-racks-up
General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)

Irish data regulator racks up GDPR cases against Big Tech

24 Feb 2020
Visit/data-insights/data-management/354423/eu-us-data-transfer-tools-used-by-facebook-ruled-legal
data management

EU-US data transfer tools used by Facebook ruled legal

19 Dec 2019
Visit/backup/33385/arcserve-udp-9240dr-review-beef-up-your-backups
backup

Arcserve UDP 9240DR review: Beef up your backups

4 Apr 2019

Most Popular

Visit/security/privacy/355155/zoom-kills-facebook-integration-after-data-transfer-backlash
privacy

Zoom kills Facebook integration after data transfer backlash

30 Mar 2020
Visit/infrastructure/server-storage/355118/hpe-warns-of-critical-bug-that-destroys-ssds-after-40000-hours
Server & storage

HPE warns of 'critical' bug that destroys SSDs after 40,000 hours

26 Mar 2020
Visit/security/data-breaches/355173/marriott-hit-by-data-breach-exposing-personal-data-of-52-million
data breaches

Marriott data breach exposes personal data of 5.2 million guests

31 Mar 2020
Visit/security/cyber-crime/355171/fbi-warns-of-zoom-bombing-hackers-amidst-coronavirus-usage-spike
cyber crime

FBI warns of ‘Zoom-bombing’ hackers amid coronavirus usage spike

31 Mar 2020