Google, Publishers to Meet as Europe’s Data Law Takes Effect

Sources say that Google has agreed to discuss the concerns of publishers at four of its global offices on the eve of Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) going into effect May 25. Google has told publishers using its advertising tools that they will be responsible for obtaining user consent to gather personal information from European users. Google has not adopted an industry-wide framework that many publishers plan to use to gain user permission on behalf of their advertising technology partners.

The Wall Street Journal reports that, “some publishers are concerned that Google’s optional alternative to that service, a free consent management platform called Funding Choices, requires that they limit the number of ad-tech vendors they work with.” Most publishers depend on Google’s advertising platform to generate revenue.

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Last month, the News Media Association, News Media Alliance, European Publishers Council and Digital Content Next, “which together represent thousands of publishers in the U.S. and Europe,” wrote Google chief executive Sundar Pichai, taking him to task for the company’s delay in revealing its GDPR proposals. Many companies have invested time and money in their own GDPR solutions and will have to make last minute changes once Google reveals its strategy.

Now, Google has invited the leaders and two of the board members from each of those four trade bodies to “attend meetings with its executives hosted at its offices in New York, Washington DC, San Francisco and London on May 24.” A spokeswoman also revealed that, “the company had spoken over the past year with more than 10,000 of its publisher, advertiser and agency partners through events, workshops and other conversations about the changes it is making to be compliant with GDPR.”

Of greatest concern is Google’s push to make publishers so-called co-controllers, which means the onus will be on them to determine “the purposes and means for processing of personal data,” and “ensure its processors’ contracts are in compliance.” The processor is “a third party vendor that digests data on behalf of the behalf of the controller and keeps records of personal data and processing activities.”

Thus, say publishers, although Google would require publishers to obtain consent for “processing of personal data on its behalf,” Google “would decide how and when that data would be made available to others.” Publishers say that paradigm “effectively prevents publishers from being able to choose which partners to work with.”

Once the GDPR goes into effect, “companies found in violation of the sweeping regulation will face fines of up to 4 percent of their annual global revenue, or €20 million, whichever is larger.”