Google has to give users more control, says the EU
CNIL has been leading a pan-European probe into Google’s privacy practices and said that the search giant has three or four months to mend its ways and give users clearer information and better control over the ways their data is shared, or else it could face fines.
Google privacy sanctions
If Google does not respond with action, the matter will move to a “sanctions phase”, said Isabelle Falque-Pierrotin, head of , CNIL (France’s National Commission for Computing and Civil Liberties) at a press conference in Paris today.
CNIL has the power to impose fines, but they could also come from “competent authorities,” in other states said Falque-Pierrotin. In March, the UK Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) said it would follow EU regulators on any potential punishment.
On behalf of the EU’s data protection authorities, CNIL is asking Google “to provide clearer and more comprehensive information” about what it is doing with collected personal data. For instance, it wants three levels of detail at which users can choose what data is shared.
It also wants Google to provide user control over what data is shared between its “numerous” services. With 60 products falling under the Google policy, data is currently being shared pretty widely, and the companyhas been criticised for offering only one single opt-out.
CNIL also says that Google is re-using information from people who don’t have Google accounts, without giving them information about what is being done: “Passive users (i.e. those that interact with some of Google’s services like advertising or ‘+1′ buttons on third-party websites) have no information at all.
In response, Google disagreed with the CNIL’s findings, claiming its privacy notices are within the European law – but it would look into the matter.
Privacy organisations have welcomed the move: “”It’s good to see European data protection authorities take action so that users gain control of their data,” said JIm Killock, executive director of the Open Rights Group. “”This must be backed by strong new data protection powers, for fines based on turnover, and rights to retrieve and to delete your data.”
“This [EU] decision may restrict Google’s ability to fully monetise its users’ personal data across its platforms and may cost Google tens of millions of dollars in lost revenue,” US lawyer Bradley Shears told the Guardian.
Meanwhile, a separate EU investigation is looking at whether Google is using its dominant position in the search engine market to harm the competition. European Commission staff are currently looking at Google’s proposals in four areas of concern. If these proposals don’t satisfy the EC, the company could be fined up to ten percent of its worldwide revenues – which for 2011 amounts to €2.9bn (£2.3bn).
CNIL and the ICO have yet to make any further comments.
Are you a Google expert? Take our quiz!