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Google trackers collect more data on Indian users than anyone else

Google trackers collect more data on Indian users than anyone else
Photo Credit: Reuters

Websites and apps in India are increasingly collecting data on users that could lead to significant privacy issues. According to a report by privacy solution provider Arkka, Google is the largest collector of data on Indian internet users, followed by Facebook. The report also noted that a large number of mobile apps are taking access to microphones and cameras on users’ devices.

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According to the report, 52% of trackers on websites belong to Google, while about 10% belong to Facebook. Google’s trackers are on 97% of Indian websites, while Facebook’s are on 55% of them. The report also assigned a readability score of 31 out of 100 to privacy notices on Indian websites, which is less than half the international standards. The readability score signifies how easy it is for users to understand privacy notices on websites.

Trackers on websites send collected information to companies, which is in turn used to present targeted ads to these users.

Further, the Arkka report also said that 42% of Android apps are sharing data with Google and 25% share data with Facebook. “Google is sort of a market leader while Facebook is also prominent in the ad-tech industry. They have access to data which other rivals may not have. Google is also now an essential infrastructure for companies to reach their audiences,” said Isha Suri, Senior Researcher at the Centre for Internet and Society.

Suri added that search-based startups often “do not find enough funders” because of the advantage that large companies like Google and Facebook already have. “Many feel that it is a race that is already lost, and acts as a barrier to entry for newer players. This is what a Chicago professor referred to as the ‘kill zone’,” she added.

To be sure, such concerns have been cited not just in India but in other countries as well. In a December 2021 report, the Competition and Markets Authority in the United Kingdom (UK), alleged that Google and Apple’s duopoly was limiting competition and choice. The regulator said that the two companies have too much control over operating systems, app stores and web browsers. 

“As a result, Apple and Google are able to control how online content, such as mobile apps and websites, is provided to users. They can also tilt the playing field towards their own services,” it added.

According to N.S. Nappinai, Supreme Court Advocate and founder of cyber safety organization Cyber Saathi Foundation, the Competition Commission of India (CCI) would be “well within its jurisdiction” to entertain a case on the dominant positions of tech giants as well.

Google hadn't responded to a request for comment at press time.

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