Dutch Groups Launch Major Privacy Lawsuit Against Google

Two Dutch consumer groups have launched a wide-ranging lawsuit against Google, alleging the company has been committing ‘large-scale privacy violations’.

The Consumers’ Association and the Foundation for the Protection of Privacy Interests claim the company has been collecting users’ online behavior and location data, without providing enough information or having obtained their permission.

The company then shares that information with hundreds of parties via its online advertising platform, they say. The data includes, for example, highly sensitive personal data about health, ethnicity and political preference.

Residents’ internet activity and locations in Europe, claim the groups, are exposed to online ad auctions on average almost 380 times a day. Meanwhile, they say, by transferring data to countries outside Europe, Google is exposing Dutch consumers to the risk of surveillance by foreign governments.

“Google is constantly monitoring everyone. Even when using third-party cookies—which are invisible—Google continues to collect data through other people’s websites and apps, even when someone is not using its products or services,” says Ada van der Veer, chair of the Foundation for the Protection of Privacy Interests.

“This enables Google to monitor almost the entire internet behavior of its users. In addition, Google continuously collects the physical locations of users, even when they are not actively using their devices and think they are ‘offline’.”

The groups have signed up more than 82,000 consumers for the class action-style lawsuit, and are seeking €750 in damages for each one. “We call on other consumers to follow this example,” says Sandra Molenaar, director of the Consumers’ Association.

“Everyone uses one or more Google services, so everyone is duped. The more people join this campaign, the bigger the fist we can make together against Google.”

Claimants need to live in the Netherlands and have used Google’s products or services at any time since March 1, 2012. They can sign up to join the suit here.

The groups are also demanding structural changes to the company’s practices, saying it must stop its ‘constant surveillance’ and halt the sharing of personal data through online advertising auctions.

“The Foundation has spoken to Google about all these matters, without results,” says van der Veer. “It is now up to the judge to put a stop to Google’s practices.”

The case is similar in principle to one previously brought by the Consumers’ Association against Facebook. Back in March, a court ruled that it had violated privacy laws covering the processing of Dutch personal data between 1 April 2010 and 1 January 2020 by using the data for advertising purposes, without consumers’ permission.

Google has been approached for comment.