Publishers Hit Back At Google’s ‘Anti-Competitive’ GDPR Contract

The News Media Association has joined US and European publisher organisations in writing to Google to express profound concerns over its proposed framework for the new data protection regime which would “undermine the fundamental purposes of the GDPR and the efforts of publishers to comply with the letter and spirit of the law.”

In a letter signed by Jason Kint, chief executive, Digital Content Next; Angela Mills Wade, executive director, European Publishers Council; David Chavern, president and chief executive, News Media Alliance; and News Media Association chief executive David Newell, outlined a series of concerns. 

The letter to Google chief executive Sundar Pichai said: “Your proposal severely falls short on many levels and seems to lay out a framework more concerned with protecting your existing business model in a manner that would undermine the fundamental purposes of the GDPR and the efforts of publishers to comply with the letter and spirit of the law.

The letter outlines areas of concern such as the proposal to make Google will be an independent controller with respect to any personal data that is processed by either Google or the publisher, a requirement that publishers obtain on Google’s behalf broad and blanket consent for all collection  and use of personal data, and an “attempt to transfer liability for consent to the publisher.”

The letter continues: “Under your proposal, in providing certain digital advertising services to publishers, you assert that Google will be a controller of the personal data it receives from publishers and collects on publisher pages, and that Google will make unilateral decisions about how a publisher’s data is used. As a controller, Google will need its own legal basis to process that personal data under the GDPR.

“Your proposal notes that Google intends to rely on consent for its legal basis and you will require publishers to obtain legally valid consent on behalf of Google for its processing of personal data as a separate and independent controller which you directly benefit from, yet you decide how and when that data may be made available to others and do not provide any details about how the data will be used by Google. By imposing your own standard for regulatory compliance Google effectively prevents publishers from being able to choose which partners to work with.

“Further, your proposal notes that Google may stop serving ads on publisher sites if you deem their consent mechanism to be insufficient. If Google then dictates how that mechanism would look and prescribes the number of companies a publisher can work with, this would limit the choice of companies that any one publisher can gather consent for, or integrate with, to a very small number defined by Google.”

“This gives rise to grave concerns in terms of anti-competitive behaviour as Google is in effect dictating to the market which companies any publisher can do business with. Finally, your attempt to shift full liability onto publishers for obtaining consent on your behalf as a separate and independent controller is troubling to us.”

The letter poses a series of questions to Google surrounding the proposal and invites the “prompt attention to our concerns” ahead of the “rapidly approaching” enforcement date of 25 May.