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Antitrust, fine of 20 million to Google and Apple

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The Italian Antitrust Authority closed two investigations against Google and Apple, sanctioning both of them for 10 million euros, that is, for the maximum allowed according to current legislation. The Antitrust has ascertained for each company two violations of the Consumer Code, one due to lack of information and another due to aggressive practices related to the acquisition and use of consumer data for commercial purposes. Google, according to the Authority, bases its economic activity on the offer of a wide range of products and services connected to the Internet (which include technologies for online advertising, search tools, cloud computing, software and hardware) on user profiling. All based on the data of the latter.

The role of Apple devices

Apple collects, profiles, and commercially uses user data across its devices and services. Therefore, even without proceeding to any transfer of data to third parties, Apple directly exploits the economic value through a promotional activity to increase the sale of its products and / or those of third parties through its commercial platforms App Store, iTunes Store and Apple Books. “In such contexts”, the note reports, “the Authority has considered that there is a consumption relationship between the users and the two operators, even in the absence of a monetary outlay, the consideration of which is represented by the data they transfer using the Google and Apple ยป. The Authority found that both Google and Apple did not provide clear and immediate information on the acquisition and use of user data for commercial purposes.

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Information omitted

In particular, Google, both in the account creation phase, which is essential for the use of all the services offered, and during the use of the services themselves, omits relevant information that the consumer needs to consciously decide to accept that the company collects and uses their personal information for commercial purposes. Apple, both in the phase of creating the Apple ID and on the occasion of accessing the Apple Stores (App Store, iTunes Store and Apple Books), does not immediately and explicitly provide the user with any indication on the collection and use of your data for commercial purposes, emphasizing only that data collection is necessary to improve the consumer experience and use of services.

An “aggressive” practice

The authority found that the two companies engaged in an aggressive practice. In particular, in the account creation phase, Google pre-sets the user’s acceptance of the transfer and / or use of their data for commercial purposes. This pre-activation allows the transfer and use of data by Google, once they are generated, without the need for other steps in which the user can from time to time confirm or change the choice pre-set by the ‘agency. In the case of Apple, on the other hand, the promotional activity is based on a method of acquiring consent to the use of user data for commercial purposes without providing the consumer with the possibility of a prior and express choice on sharing their data. This acquisition architecture, prepared by Apple, does not make it possible to exercise one’s will on the use of one’s data for commercial purposes. Therefore, the consumer is conditioned in the choice of consumption and undergoes the transfer of personal information, which Apple can dispose of for its own promotional purposes carried out in different ways.

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