Google given 10 days to decide on settling e-mail scanning probe in Brazil

10 January 2020 00:00 by Ana Paula Candil

Google's Brazil unit was given 10 days by the national consumer protection authority to decide whether to settle an investigation into charges it scanned e-mails sent via Gmail without users' consent, according to a document seen by MLex.

The probe, started last Feb. 7 by the Department of Consumer Defense and Protection (DPDC) from the National Consumer Secretariat, or Senacon — an agency of the Justice Ministry — could lead to fines of up to 9.7 million reais ($2.63 million) if Google doesn't settle. The agency is investigating whether Google Brasil Internet violated the Brazilian Internet Bill and the Consumer Defense Act by conducting the automated e-mail analysis for advertising-targeting purposes.

On Wednesday, DPDC asked Google Brasil Internet to comment "on the persistence in the interest of a possible Conduct Adjustment Agreement with this Department, expressing its compliance with the terms proposed by this DPDC or even presenting a possible counterproposal."

When asked about its interest in settling the probe, Google told MLex it doesn't comment on ongoing investigations and that it "hasn't used information available in Gmail for ad personalization since 2017."

"We are confident that our products are in accordance with Brazilian law," Google said in an e-mail.*

The probe stems from a 2016 class action filed by federal prosecutors in the state of Piauí, who also notified the consumer protection agency of their investigation and asked for further scrutiny of Google's practices. Prosecutors argued the company violated a provision of Brazil's Internet Bill that requires consumers give express consent to any gathering, use, storage and handling of personal data.

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