Data protection issues for Google trouble BIG DATA business

by DLA Piper

Data protection issues for Google in Italy are not over. The Italian Data Protection Authority (DPA) has now challenged their privacy information notice requiring – among others – an express consent from users to their profiling for marketing purposes leading to issues that might impact any business based on the processing of BIG DATA such as the Internet of Things and in general on behavioural advertising.

A few months ago we had commented the € 1 M fine issued by the Italian DPA against Google for the processing of data collected through their Google Street View service. However, the battle between Google and the Italian DPA is not over since now the authority also challenged the data protection notice adopted by Google.

In 2012 Google announced the implementation of a single data protection notice for all its services. This led not only to comments from the different European data protection authority and the European data protection advisory body, the Article 29 Working Party, but also the Italian DPA started in 2013 an investigation which ended up in a decision now adopted.

The document issued by the Italian DPA is quite long and complex but its main terms are the following:

Modalities and contents of privacy information notice

Google shall adopt two levels of data protection information notice:

1. A general privacy information notice applicable to all its services and containing basic information such as

  • the types of data that are processed,
  • the identity of the data controller and of its representative located in Italy
  • an address for the users’ exercise of their right of access
  • the circumstance that the users’ personal data are used for marketing purposes with reference in particular to behavioural advertising practices through the monitoring and profiling of users’ activities and

2. Several long form data protection information notices relating to each service provided addressing the risks related to each service and linkable from the general privacy information notice.

Data protection issues in case of lack of users’ prior consent to the profiling and monitoring for marketing purposes

The most relevant data protection issues for Google derive from the obligation imposed by the DPA to obtain the users’ prior consent to the processing of their personal data for advertising purposes. This includes

  • information contained in emails of GMail service,
  • information deriving from different Google services that are then linked to be better tailored to users’ preferences and
  • information collected through cookies, authentication credentials and fingerprinting technologies.

In relation to the modalities through which such consent has to be obtained, the DPA adopted an approach which is along the lines of the one recently adopted to face data protection issues concerning cookies outlined in the decision covered in this post. Indeed, the DPA held that a banner clearly visible on Google homepage shall:

  • refer to the fact that personal data collected from users will be used for profiling purposes;
  • contain a link to the privacy information notice which shall contain the information referred in the paragraph above;
  • contain an additional link to an area where it is possible to either deny to the consent to the profiling or select the modalities and functionalities for which the user wants to be profiled; and
  • mention that selecting any content of the page outside the banner, the user grants his consent to the profiling of his personal data.

The DPA also referred to cases when following the display of the above mentioned banner the consent is meant to be implied and when it shall be requested again from users.

And for instance while for authenticated users (i.e. those that have for instance a GMail account) the privacy consent will be valid across all the devices used by him, the same does not apply for unauthenticated users which shall grant a separate consent per each device. Also, in relation to the “passive users” (i.e. those that do not use Google services but navigate on sites that use Google cookies for instance) the consent shall be obtained by the site itself through the modalities outlined in the DPA’s decision concerning cookies.

Term of storage of personal data

In the light of the recent decision issued by the European Court of Justice with reference to the exercise of the right to be forgotten in relation to data accessible through Google search engine covered in this post, the Italian DPA did not take any clear position awaiting the developments on the matter. Google shall in any case adopt a data deletion policy and shall retain personal data for no longer than it is requested for the purposes for which they have been collected.

What data protection issues for other BIG DATA businesses and foreign companies?

Because of the technical issues necessary to implement the changes referred above, the Italian DPA granted 18 months to Google in order to put in place the measures referred above.

However, the main issue relates to the effects that such decision will have on other businesses relying on big data and behavioural advertising techniques. Will the same principles be extended for instance to companies that monitor social media usage? And what about Internet of Things, wearable technologies and eHealth technologies?

Also, while Google was granted with an 18 months period to comply with the obligations above, what will happen to other businesses that have not been proactively approaching the DPA to negotiate a transitional period in order to become compliant? They might consider to start discussions with the DPA before being potentially sanctioned with a considerable negative effect on the value of their business.

Furthermore, data protection issues are not just applicable to European companies since the DPA treated Google as a company fully subject to Italian data protection regulations following the so called targeting approach adopted in the recent decision of the European Court of Justice. Therefore any non-European company targeting European users might be obliged to comply with the principles above.

This is a very important topic that is becoming more and more the focus of the attention for different business.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

© DLA Piper | Attorney Advertising

Written by:

DLA Piper

DLA Piper on:

Readers' Choice 2017
Reporters on Deadline

"My best business intelligence, in one easy email…"

Your first step to building a free, personalized, morning email brief covering pertinent authors and topics on JD Supra:
Sign up using*

Already signed up? Log in here

*By using the service, you signify your acceptance of JD Supra's Privacy Policy.
Custom Email Digest
Privacy Policy (Updated: October 8, 2015):

JD Supra provides users with access to its legal industry publishing services (the "Service") through its website (the "Website") as well as through other sources. Our policies with regard to data collection and use of personal information of users of the Service, regardless of the manner in which users access the Service, and visitors to the Website are set forth in this statement ("Policy"). By using the Service, you signify your acceptance of this Policy.

Information Collection and Use by JD Supra

JD Supra collects users' names, companies, titles, e-mail address and industry. JD Supra also tracks the pages that users visit, logs IP addresses and aggregates non-personally identifiable user data and browser type. This data is gathered using cookies and other technologies.

The information and data collected is used to authenticate users and to send notifications relating to the Service, including email alerts to which users have subscribed; to manage the Service and Website, to improve the Service and to customize the user's experience. This information is also provided to the authors of the content to give them insight into their readership and help them to improve their content, so that it is most useful for our users.

JD Supra does not sell, rent or otherwise provide your details to third parties, other than to the authors of the content on JD Supra.

If you prefer not to enable cookies, you may change your browser settings to disable cookies; however, please note that rejecting cookies while visiting the Website may result in certain parts of the Website not operating correctly or as efficiently as if cookies were allowed.

Email Choice/Opt-out

Users who opt in to receive emails may choose to no longer receive e-mail updates and newsletters by selecting the "opt-out of future email" option in the email they receive from JD Supra or in their JD Supra account management screen.


JD Supra takes reasonable precautions to insure that user information is kept private. We restrict access to user information to those individuals who reasonably need access to perform their job functions, such as our third party email service, customer service personnel and technical staff. However, please note that no method of transmitting or storing data is completely secure and we cannot guarantee the security of user information. Unauthorized entry or use, hardware or software failure, and other factors may compromise the security of user information at any time.

If you have reason to believe that your interaction with us is no longer secure, you must immediately notify us of the problem by contacting us at In the unlikely event that we believe that the security of your user information in our possession or control may have been compromised, we may seek to notify you of that development and, if so, will endeavor to do so as promptly as practicable under the circumstances.

Sharing and Disclosure of Information JD Supra Collects

Except as otherwise described in this privacy statement, JD Supra will not disclose personal information to any third party unless we believe that disclosure is necessary to: (1) comply with applicable laws; (2) respond to governmental inquiries or requests; (3) comply with valid legal process; (4) protect the rights, privacy, safety or property of JD Supra, users of the Service, Website visitors or the public; (5) permit us to pursue available remedies or limit the damages that we may sustain; and (6) enforce our Terms & Conditions of Use.

In the event there is a change in the corporate structure of JD Supra such as, but not limited to, merger, consolidation, sale, liquidation or transfer of substantial assets, JD Supra may, in its sole discretion, transfer, sell or assign information collected on and through the Service to one or more affiliated or unaffiliated third parties.

Links to Other Websites

This Website and the Service may contain links to other websites. The operator of such other websites may collect information about you, including through cookies or other technologies. If you are using the Service through the Website and link to another site, you will leave the Website and this Policy will not apply to your use of and activity on those other sites. We encourage you to read the legal notices posted on those sites, including their privacy policies. We shall have no responsibility or liability for your visitation to, and the data collection and use practices of, such other sites. This Policy applies solely to the information collected in connection with your use of this Website and does not apply to any practices conducted offline or in connection with any other websites.

Changes in Our Privacy Policy

We reserve the right to change this Policy at any time. Please refer to the date at the top of this page to determine when this Policy was last revised. Any changes to our privacy policy will become effective upon posting of the revised policy on the Website. By continuing to use the Service or Website following such changes, you will be deemed to have agreed to such changes. If you do not agree with the terms of this Policy, as it may be amended from time to time, in whole or part, please do not continue using the Service or the Website.

Contacting JD Supra

If you have any questions about this privacy statement, the practices of this site, your dealings with this Web site, or if you would like to change any of the information you have provided to us, please contact us at:

- hide
*With LinkedIn, you don't need to create a separate login to manage your free JD Supra account, and we can make suggestions based on your needs and interests. We will not post anything on LinkedIn in your name. Or, sign up using your email address.