Google targeted by class action

If you are used to googling at the slightest question, you may receive a check from the web giant. The Superior Court authorized a class action against Google.

Justice Donald Bisson granted last month the motion presented by Option consommateurs in June 2020 with the help of the legal firm Belleau Lapointe. The association, which defends the rights of consumers, accuses the technology company of collecting information on Internet users without their consent. It would collect data even if users don’t have a Google account or choose private browsing or ‘Do Not Track’. It would do the same on websites that use its Google Analytics or Google Ad Manager tools.

All people who have lived in Quebec since June 2017 and who have surfed on Google’s platforms or on a site that uses its tools are members of the class action. Option consommateurs claims that these people be compensated “according to the value of the information collected by ⦋Google⦌” and asks for the sum of 50 million dollars in punitive damages. The amount of compensation, if any, will be determined at the end of the trial.

Without consent

Several issues will be debated in court, including whether the multinational collects data with or without the consent of Internet users. In its Privacy Policy, it states in the first sentence that “when you use ⦋its⦌ services, you entrust ⦋it⦌ with your personal data”. Judge Bisson points out in his decision that reading this policy is not mandatory before using the tools and services of the Californian company. No request for consent is made before collecting information.

The giant Google also mentions that it collects information, even if users indicate a refusal. “Most websites and web services (including those owned by Google) do not change their behavior when they receive a ‘Do Not Track’ request,” says the Google Chrome Help Center. According to the evidence submitted, the judge finds that the Web giant is also ignoring the option of browsing in private mode.

Personal information or not?

What information does Google get about its users? The language they speak, their interests, where they live, the type of electronic devices they own, their web provider, their phone number, etc.

Are these personal data? Despite the first sentence of its Privacy Policy, Google says no since they do not identify a person. Justice Bisson, basing himself on the Act respecting the protection of personal information in the private sector and on the Act respecting the protection of personal information and electronic documents, does not share this opinion. “⦋The information collected by Google⦌ clearly identifies the natural person member of the group, and the goal is to offer him/her personalized ads for him/her,” he writes.

Google provides its users with “recommendations, personalized content, and personalized search results,” says its Privacy Policy.

To be notified of the next steps in this legal action, you can register on the website of the legal firm Belleau Lapointe or subscribe to the Option consommateurs newsletter.

To better understand this type of process, read our article on how class actions work.

>> To read also: Class actions: you could be entitled to $20 if you had a disk drive and Desjardins data leak: $1,000 for victims of identity theft


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