The Austrian advocacy group noyb.eu complained to France’s data protection authorities on Wednesday that Google had violated a European Union court judgment by sending unsolicited advertising emails directly to the inbox of Gmail users.
One of Europe’s busiest data regulators, the French CNIL, has imposed some of the largest fines on companies like Google and Facebook. The activist organization gave CNIL screenshots of a user’s inbox that displayed advertising messages at the top.
The French word ‘annonce,’ or ‘ad,’ and a green box were used to identify the messages. According to the group, that type of marketing was only permitted under EU rules with the users’ consent.
When referring to Gmail’s anti-spam filters, which place the majority of unsolicited emails in a separate folder, Romain Robert, program director at noyb.eu, said, “It’s as if the mailman was paid to eliminate the ads from your inbox and put his own instead.”
Requests for comment from Google did not immediately receive a response. A CNIL spokeswoman acknowledged that the organization had received the complaint and was in the process of registering it.
The CNIL was chosen by Vienna-based noyb.eu (None Of Your Business) over other national data privacy watchdogs because it has a reputation for being one of the EU’s most outspoken regulators, according to Robert.
Even while any CNIL ruling would only be enforceable in France, it might force Google to examine its methods there.
Max Schrems, an Austrian lawyer and privacy activist who won a prominent privacy case before Europe’s top court in 2020, formed the advocacy group Noyb.eu.
This year, the CNIL fined Google a record-breaking 150 million euros ($149 million) for making it challenging for people to reject web trackers. Facebook (FB.O), owned by Meta Platforms, was also penalized 60 million euros for the same offense.
The firms are constantly under investigation for their practice of transmitting the private details of EU citizens to databases in the US. Numerous complaints have been made by NOYB to authorities throughout the bloc, claiming that the practice is forbidden.
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