EU committee criticises Google's advertising practices

A European Union committee has heavily criticised a number of advertising practices that Google employs.

The Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection, which is working on behalf of the European Parliament, approved a report by a 30 to one vote earlier this month, showing strong dissatisfaction with what is considered widespread poor practice by online advertisers, including Google.

The practices in question include selling ads based on search keywords that are also trademarks and making ads based on searches through emails. While Google was not overtly named it is well known for employing both of these.

Google won a case when European courts decided it was not against European trademark laws. In August Google announced that it would be rolling out sales of trademarked terms to all 27 Member States of the European Union, which is likely what irked the Union enough into releasing this new report.

Then there’s Google’s Gmail service, which allows Google to look through email accounts and deliver targeted ads based on the terms found in messages. This has been the cause of privacy concerns since its initial launch, but not much has come of any attempts to rein in Google’s aggressive expansion at the cost of privacy.

The report recommends that sales of search terms that are otherwise trademarked should be subject to the prior authorisation of the brand name’s owners, which would effectively revert things to the way they were before Google won its court case.

It also suggested that the content of private emails should not be used for advertising, which could wreck Gmail if it were to be forced upon Google, as that is the primary impetus behind it.

The proposals are set to be opened to debate in the European Parliament in December, which could see new legislation brought in to force Google to not sell trademarked keywords without permission and end its automated spying on emails for advertising.

Such a decision could effectively overturn Google’s previous victories in the European courts and make Europe a less appealing place for Google to operate in.