A552 - Italian Competition Authority: Following the Authority's intervention, Google's data portability becomes easier


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Google's investigation into alleged abuse of its dominant position has been closed with commitments. From now on it will be easier for users to transfer their data from the American group's ecosystem to other platforms

The Italian Competition Authority has closed its investigation into an alleged abuse of dominant position by Alphabet Inc., Google LLC, Google Ireland Limited and Google Italy S.r.l (Google), by making the proposed commitments binding.

The Alphabet/Google group holds a dominant position in several markets and is consequently able to acquire large amounts of data through the services it provides (Gmail, Google Maps, Android). In 2022, it achieved a turnover of USD 282.8 billion. The alleged abusive conduct by Google consisted in obstacles to interoperability in data sharing with other platforms, in particular with the Weople APP, developed by Hoda to offer users alternative ways of exploiting their data.

Data portability is an instrument governed, inter alia, by Article 20 of the GDPR, which facilitates the circulation of data and thus provides alternative firms with the possibility of exerting competitive pressure on companies, such as Google, that manage ecosystems based on the availability of almost unlimited amounts of data, only functional to their own business model. Moreover, the right to portability, if accompanied by effective interoperability mechanisms, may enable users to obtain the maximum economic potential from the use of their personal data, including through alternative exploitation methods to those currently offered by the dominant operator.

Overall, the Authority found the commitments proposed by Google to be adequate to address the competition concerns. The group, in fact, presented a package of three commitments, two of which envisage supplementary solutions to Takeout - the service Google makes available to end users for backing up their data - to facilitate the export of data to third-party operators. The third commitment offers the possibility to start testing, prior to its official release, a new solution - currently under development - that will allow direct data portability from service to service, for third-party operators authorised by end users who so request, in relation to data provided by the users themselves or generated through their activity on Google's online search engine and YouTube platform.

In the Authority's view, the commitments submitted by Google ensure significant automation of the procedure available for data export (Takeout). They also improve the interoperability mechanism that makes the data available in the Google ecosystem accessible to third-party platforms. Users and third-party operators will be able to make use of this mechanism until the release of a direct service-to-service portability solution, which, according to Google itself, will take place in the first quarter of 2024. Moreover, as a result of the commitments, third-party operators interested in Google data will be able to start testing the aforementioned direct portability solution with regard to Google Search and YouTube services, at least six months before its actual release.

Rome, 31 July 2023