Publishers Across Globe Call On Google To Respond To GDPR Letter

News media publishers across the globe have called on Google to respond to a letter sent to chief executive Sundar Pichai more than three weeks ago expressing profound concerns over its proposed framework for the new data protection regime.

Google is hosting a series of meetings in the UK and US today, the day before GDPR takes effect, but publishers are declining to attend because the joint letter from News Media Association, Digital Content Next, European Publishers Council and News Media Alliance has not yet received a response.  

The letter outlines areas of concern such as the proposal to make Google 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.”

NMA deputy chief executive Lynne Anderson said: “Given that we have still not received a reply to our joint letter to Google’s CEO, sent over three weeks ago, we feel it would be inappropriate for the NMA to join this private meeting, scheduled for the day before GDPR comes into force. 

“In the interests of clarity and transparency, we do require a written response to our questions. Unfortunately, discussions behind closed doors have not alleviated the confusion and concern across the industry over Google’s plans and the impact these may have on publishers.”

Digital Content Next chief executive Jason Kint was quoted by Digiday as saying that his preference was that Google first answer questions that his and other trade groups put to Google about how it would implement the privacy law.

Kint said more than 30 members of the association told him they’re not going. He’s “not telling [members] not to go” but that “No one thinks this is a good idea to take this behind closed doors,” Digiday reported.

“I’m with DCN on this,” said Financial Times chief commercial officer Jon Slade. “We would like to see Google respond publicly to the open letter that was sent to them. So we are not participating in meetings with Google this week.”

“The view was, give us a response and then we’ll have something to talk about,” said David Chavern, president and CEO of the News Media Alliance, whose members include News Corp and The New York Times.

“What’s clear is their whole GDPR strategy when it came to publishers came pretty late in the game and caused us to react as a group and say, ‘Here are these problems.’ They’re not going to solve these problems in groups or one by one because these problems are pretty universal.”

The European Publishers Council’s head is also not attending or encouraging members to go, said Angela Mills Wade, its executive director. “They [Google] can’t expect publishers to bear the risk for what they have decided to do,” said Mills Wade.

“I remain optimistic that Google will do the right thing,” said Mills Wade. “We expect them to address our concerns and come up with solutions, technologically and legally. It wasn’t acceptable for them to expect publishers to underwrite their risk and they must address this.”

The INMA was invited but is also taking a pass, but that’s because it’s tied up with its big World Congress of News Media taking place next week.