Google plans to remove British accounts from EU data privacy obligations following the UK’s exit from the EU, Reuters reported yesterday. While this nominally presents an opportunity for alternative “privacy browsers,” one company, an arch-critic of Google, suggests that it’s not a big deal.
“The God of Google Scandals is a generous god,” said Johnny Ryan, chief policy officer at Brave, a privacy browser that seeks to challenge Google. “There is no need to invent additional outrages.”
EU’s general data protection regulation (GDPR), established in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, forces companies to disclose openly to users how their data will be used.
But the UK’s withdrawal from the union leaves GDPR’s future uncertain, and Google is reportedly looking to escape its requirements entirely, compelling users to agree to new terms and conditions.
Google’s plan, according to Reuters, would involve transplanting British data from the EU-governed Ireland to the US, where privacy laws are lax.
All this could, potentially, leave an opening for companies which explicitly don’t track data—for instance, those involved in the cryptocurrency space.
You’d expect that Brave, which does not track users and rewards them in cryptocurrency for engaging with ads, would be one such company. Last month, Brave upbraided Google for its data practices, writing in a letter to the British government that the company was openly violating “GDPR requirements of transparency, fairness, accountability, and purpose limitation in data protection law,” and that the government was complicit by not enforcing it.
Brave also implicated Google in privacy breaches involving up to 400 regional British councils, which supposedly enlist private companies—using Google’s technology—to track constituents’ data. It advised the government to “neutralise Google’s unfair advantage.”
Of the latest revelations, however, Brave’s Johnny Ryan demurred, noting that GDPR rules in the UK remain in force, at least for now.
“The GDPR continues to apply to all people in the UK at present, irrespective of any Google actions,” he told Decrypt. He added that intelligence wise, it is probably in the UK’s interest to hew to the EU’s provisions.
“The UK is eager to maintain a free flow of personal data between it and the EU, and has said so since the start of the Brexit planning,” he said. “This is important for all or almost all sectors of the economy. If the UK were to remove itself from the GDPR structure, it would be burdensome to all businesses that work in the UK and the much larger EU market.”
Indeed, he added, “it would be fatal.”
Nevertheless, UK prime minister Boris Johnson has already shown willingness to dismantle other economically significant EU provisions, having scrapped freedom of movement earlier this month.
That, too, could be fatal.