Google could face Dutch fine over privacy policy

Google could face a fine after Dutch authorities find the firm’s 2012 privacy policy violates local data protection law

Google could face a fine after the Dutch Data Protection authority found that the firm’s 2012 privacy policy violates Dutch data protection law.

The latest version of Google’s privacy policy introduced the practice of combining personal data from Google’s various online services, including YouTube, Gmail and Google Search.

But, after a seven-month investigation, the Dutch privacy watchdog has invited Google to attend a meeting to discuss its concerns regarding the firm’s privacy policy.

The Dutch Data Protection Authority will then decide whether to take action against Google, which could include a fine.

In June, Spain's Data Protection Agency said it had initiated sanction proceedings against Google, which could face a fine of up to $408,000. 

A month later, the Information Commissioner’s Office said Google could face sanctions if it did not re-write its privacy policy, which raised serious questions about its compliance with the UK Data Protection Act.

However, fines by data protection authorities are minimal in comparison with Google’s capacity to generate revenues of more than $545,000 every five minutes, according to the Guardian.

Dutch investigators said it is "almost impossible" for internet users not to interact with Google, but the company does not properly inform users what personal data it collects and combines.

They said Google also does not properly inform users of the purpose of collecting their personal data, and that proper user permission cannot be obtained by accepting general terms of service.

Responding to the findings, Google said it provided users of its services with sufficiently specific information about the way it processed their personal data.

"Our privacy policy respects European law and allows us to create simpler, more effective services. We have engaged fully with the Dutch Data Protection Authority throughout this process and will continue to do so going forward," the company said in a statement.

The Netherlands is one of six European countries, including the UK, that are investigating Google’s privacy policy because of concerns about personal data being stored in foreign jurisdictions.

Privacy groups are concerned that personal data is being stored in the US, reducing the control that European citizens have over their personal information.

These concerns have increased in the wake of claims by whistleblower Edward Snowden that US intelligence services have access to material stored in US-based cloud services.

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