Google just announced a change for users in Europe that will let them decide exactly how much data-sharing they’re comfortable with. The new policy, which the company said was in response to the EU’s Digital Markets Act (DMA), allows users to opt out of data sharing across all, some, or none of a select number of Google’s services. The services listed include YouTube, Search, ad services, Google Play, Chrome, Google Shopping, and Google Maps. But the policy isn’t watertight — Google will still share user data when it’s necessary to complete a task (e.g., if you’re paying for a purchase on Google Shopping with Google Pay) in order to comply with the law, stop fraud, or protect against abuse.
That’s not the biggest change that Google will have to make to comply with the DMA, which goes into effect on March 6th. The law also includes additional rules on interoperability and competition. For example, Google will no longer be able to treat its own services more favorably in Search’s ranking than other third-party services.
The EU is not the only government that has taken issue with Google’s vast troves of user data. In the United States, the Department of Justice has sued Google in what is likely the biggest antitrust trial in the country since the government took on Microsoft in the ’90s. In one of its arguments, the DOJ has stated that the sheer amount of user data that Google has collected over the years has led to the creation of a “data fortress” that helps ensure that the company remains the world’s leading search engine.
Still, Google’s new DMA changes will result in tradeoffs for some users. The company noted that if a user unlinks Search, YouTube, and Chrome, it will throw off their personalized recommendations on YouTube. If Search and Maps are unlinked, Google Maps will no longer be able suggest locations (like restaurants, for example) based on previous activity. Google’s users still have to choose between their privacy or convenience, but at least in Europe they’ll get to be more precise about where they draw the line.