Google closer to action from European privacy regulators

Google is another step closer to action by privacy regulators across Europe for failing to change the way it manages user data

Google is another step closer to action by privacy regulators across Europe for failing to change the way it manages user data.

EU data authorities began investigating Google’s data collection practices last March, when the search firm started combining data from across its sites to better target advertising, which regulators see as "high risk" to users’ privacy.

The new policy was implemented after the company combined 60 separate privacy policies into a single agreement, which has raised privacy concerns on both sides of the Atlantic.

According to France's privacy watchdog CNIL, which was tasked with leading the EU investigation, Google has yet to respond to 12 recommendations adopted by 27 national regulators in October 2012.

In February, CNIL said Google could face could face a coordinated "repressive action” if it failed to implement any of the compliance measures by the end of the month.

On 19 March, 2013, representatives of Google were invited at their request to meet with the taskforce led by the CNIL and composed of data protection authorities of France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, and the UK.

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In a statement, issued by CNIL, the watchdog said that following this meeting, no change has been seen.

“It is now up to each national data protection authority to carry out further investigations according to the provisions of its national law transposing European legislation,” the statement said.

Consequently, all the authorities composing the taskforce have launched actions on the basis of the provisions laid down in their respective national legislation, CNIL said.

CNIL also notified Google of the initiation of an inspection procedure and that it had set up an international administrative cooperation procedure with its counterparts in the taskforce.

Nick Pickles, director of privacy group Big Brother Watch, said: “Google has repeatedly put profit ahead of user privacy and the way that the company ignored concerns from regulators around the world when it changed its privacy policy showed just how little regard it has for the law.

“Just because Google is a big business does not put it above the law. The company has ignored the authorities and refused to make any meaningful changes to how it collects and uses people’s data.

“Consumers are increasingly concerned about how their data is being used and it is essential that those breaking the law are properly punished. It is essential regulators find a sanction that is not just a slap on the wrists and will make Google’s think twice before it ignores consumer rights again,” said Pickles.

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