Alphabet hit with Austrian privacy complaint over alleged browser tracking

FILE PHOTO: The Google logo is seen in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S. January 10, 2024. REUTERS/Steve Marcus/File Photo

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Alphabet's Google was hit with a complaint by Austrian advocacy group NOYB on Thursday for allegedly tracking users of its Chrome Web browser, an issue already on EU antitrust regulators' radar.

The U.S. tech giant is phasing out the use of third-party cookies that advertisers use to track consumers in order to protect consumer privacy.

It has introduced a set of tools called the Privacy Sandbox to block covert tracking techniques and limit data sharing with third parties while developers and publishers can measure ads without tracking individual users.

Chrome users are asked whether they want to turn on the ad privacy feature or not to prevent being tracked.

NOYB (none of your business) said the feature allows Google to track users within the browser, and that the company should first seek users' consent as required under European Union privacy rules.

"People thought they were agreeing to a privacy feature, but were tricked into accepting Google's first-party ad tracking. Consent has to be informed, transparent and fair to be legal. Google has done the exact opposite," NOYB founder Max Schrems said in statement.

The group on Thursday filed a complaint with the Austrian data protection authority.

NOYB has filed scores of complaints with EU and national privacy watchdogs against big tech companies for alleged privacy infringements.

(Reporting by Foo Yun Chee; Editing by Mark Potter)

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