Is Google In Trouble With the EU Again?


Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) has failed to fix the significant flaws that European Union data protection regulators have identified in its new streamlined privacy policy, and that means trouble for the technology giant. The company now faces possible fines for its lapses.

A team of six regulators began “coordinated” enforcement measures Tuesday, reported Bloomberg, which punctuated the several-weeks-long impasse that followed a March 19 meeting between the two camps. As France’s National Commission for Computing and Civil Liberties, or CNIL, said it a statement posted to its website, national regulators must pursue Google according to their own regulations and powers. CNIL is the agency that has led the team of regulators from the United Kingdom, Germany, Spain, Italy and the Netherlands in their investigation.

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While financial penalties are one option, “the authorities’ goal is not to fine Google,” CNIL chairwoman Isabelle Falque-Pierrotin told the publication. “The goal is for Google to be in line with what we demand.” CNIL could levy a maximum fine of 150,000 euros, or $192,300, she added. Failing to give people information on how their personal data was used was one area in which Google has neglected to align its policies with EU rules, according to Falque-Pierrotin.

Criticism of Google’s privacy policy began last year when the operator of the world’s largest search engine changed its privacy policy in order to devise a consistent standard for more than 60 of its products. Both regulators and consumer advocates are concerned that the company is not protecting the data it collects from its users, and as a result, Google is under privacy investigations by authorities around the world…

In the company’s defense, Google spokesman Al Verney told Bloomberg by email that its privacy policy “respects European law and allows us to create simpler, more effective services.” He added that the company has “engaged fully with the data protection authorities involved throughout this process, and we’ll continue to do so going forward.”

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The current allegations that the taskforce of six agencies have brought began with an examination of the privacy policy made by the European Union’s Article 29 Data Protection Working Party last year. In October 2012, the group sent a letter to Google’s Chief Executive Officer Larry Page, which stated that the company “empowers itself to collect vast amounts of personal data about Internet users” without showing that the “collection was proportionate.” The letter also asked the company to bring its policy in line with EU rules, reported the publication.

Additionally, Falque-Pierrotin warned that the French regulatory agency could fine Google for not complying with the regulations. “I am not prejudging any fines that may be levied,” she said. “We are in a continued process of dialogue with Google and the whole process can be stopped at any moment if Google puts its systems in line with our demands.”

Already, Google has twice defied requests by the EU to pause its implementation of the unified privacy policy until CNIL has had the opportunity to review it.

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