London: Google on Wednesday was hit by a fresh privacy complaint in Europe, this time for allegedly inserting ads in Gmail without users’ consent.
Privacy advocacy group noyb filed the complaint with France’s data protection watchdog, the CNIL.
The complaint said that in the “Promotions” tab of the mailbox (both in the mobile version of Gmail and in the web version), the users receive, among other things, advertising emails for which they have given their consent.
Among these emails, the users also receive advertising emails of another type called Gmail advertising emails.
“These Gmail advertising emails have only two characteristics that distinguish them from other emails. First, they include the word ‘Ad’ in green letters on the left-hand side, below the subject line of the email. Second, they do not include a date,” read the complaint.
The complaint alleged that Gmail users did not give consent to being spammed with Google’s ads.
“The complainants were not asked to consent to these advertising emails being sent to them when they signed up for Gmail or even afterwards,” it said.
Google was yet to react to the privacy complaint filed under the European Union’s ePrivacy Directive rules.
When the users click on the Gmail advertising emails, they are not redirected to an external website and they see the full advertisement in the form of an email.
“Therefore, the Gmail advertising emails are even closer to ‘traditional’ emails,” said the complaint.
In addition, the Gmail advertising emails are displayed in the ‘Promotions’ tab in the inbox.
“This further confuses users: they generally expect to receive advertising emails to which they have subscribed, and will therefore legitimately assume that the Google advertising emails at hand in this complaint are also promotional emails to which they have subscribed,” it alleged.
Gmail offers automatic filtering of unsolicited emails where unsolicited direct marketing emails are supposed to be redirected to a “Spam” box.
However, Gmail advertising emails that are also unsolicited — which cannot be ignored by Google — are knowingly directed to the “Promotions” inbox,” said noyb.
In December 2020, the CNIL fined Google $120 million for dropping tracking cookies without consent.
In January, the French watchdog fined Google $170 million for “dark patterns it found Google deploying in cookie consent flows”.