The Italian competition authority (AGCM) is to examine whether Google has hindered interoperability with other platforms by abusing its dominant position, in violation of Article 102 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. The investigation was announced the day after the agency inspected Google’s headquarters in Italy in cooperation with the police force in charge of fighting financial crime and smuggling, as well as drug trafficking.
The initiation of this process is linked in particular to the obstacles that the technology giant has allegedly placed in the way of its users being able to transfer their personal information to Weople, a direct marketing platform run by the national operator Hoda. This company has developed an innovative data-driven investment bank and its complaint to AGCM has triggered the investigation under the right to portability of personal data under article 20 of the General Data Protection Regulation.
The company whose complaint has initiated the process processes personalised offers for its users through an application that acts as an intermediary.
The Italian competition authority understands that the possibility for any user to transfer the information it has generated in a Google environment offers the opportunity for other companies to challenge it for part of the market it now dominates. It also considers that this makes it possible to exploit the maximum economic potential of this information by opening up the range beyond the dominant operator.
Weople encourages its users to link their accounts on third-party services so that, once “masked and anonymised”, their data can be used to receive personalised offers without their issuers having access to their information. The application of this platform acts as an intermediary for this to happen and also allows those who use it to generate amounts in a virtual currency that can eventually be converted into real money.
Another of its business avenues is the aggregation of “anonymised” data into blocks that it sells to marketers for use in trend analysis and market intelligence. In any case, Weople was also investigated by the Italian data protection agency in 2019 for commercial encouragement of data portability and security risk in the blocks of information it produces.
In response to this investigation Google has indicated that it has been offering its users the possibility to extract and transfer their data for more than a decade, and that in 2021 more than 400 billion files were exported. This is the latest clash between AGCM and the tech giant following a $120 million fine imposed in 2021 for breaches related to an electric car charging app and another investigation launched in 2020 into Google’s advertising business in Italy.