Google, which is already facing an antitrust case in India, is now being accused of retaining user data from Google’s websites on Google Chrome despite users switching on settings to clear all data. These accusations are surfacing on several online platforms like Reddit and Ycombinator.
If a Google Chrome user wishes to clear the cookies and other site data, they can choose the option ‘Clear cookies and site data when you quit Chrome’. While the function works fine for other websites, it clears only cookies for Google’s own sites. All other data is stored under Local Storage, Database Storage, and Service Workers.
“One of the major problems is that Privacy Policies on Google are not accessible. Even for people like me, who have studied law, it becomes a task to analyse what exactly these policies mean. Moreover, they are not accessible in regional languages,” said Shwetha Mohandas, policy officer from The Centre for Internet & Society.
Already under fire
Google is already under international scrutiny for violating trust laws. Currently, the tech giant is expecting a hearing from the Department of Justice, US, over antitrust concerns. It is being scrutinised for taking advantage of its online dominance and stifling competition. It has also been questioned about its privacy policies and their effectiveness.
In 2012, Google was fined $22.5 million for abusing the privacy of users. It was noted that Safari, Apple’s in-built browser on their devices, blocks tracking cookies as a default option. Tracking cookies are largely used by advertisers to monitor web activity and target ads. Despite the blocking, Google pushed in these cookies and bypassed the users’ privacy settings. Currently, Google’s search engine mechanisms are being investigated by the US Department of Justice.
Recently, two Indian lawyers filed an antitrust case against Google for abusing its Android OS’s position in the smart TV market. This is the fourth antitrust case against Google from India. Last year, Google was fined 1.4 billion Euros for breaching the antitrust rules of the European Union. EU said Google misused its dominant position in the market for “brokering online search adverts”. It stated that Google shielded itself from competition by imposing anti-competitive restrictions on third part websites.
This misconduct lasted for over 10 years, and was considered illegal under EU’s regulations. It took away not only the chances of other companies to compete against the giant, but also for consumers to find other competition.
After learning about Google’s privacy violations, users are now searching for secure alternatives. “Many of us don’t even clear cookies, it’s just more convenient that way. We are growing aware about how our data is monitored, but only stricter laws can work. As for alternatives, I have heard about Safari being a safer space, but I’m not too sure. I’d suggest DuckDuckGo, although it’s a bit more complicated to use as compared to Chrome” she added.