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Google Faces Punishment After Failing To Answer European Privacy Regulators

Tom Brewster is TechWeek Europe's Security Correspondent. He has also been named BT Information Security Journalist of the Year in 2012 and 2013.

Google’s controversial privacy policy could land it with a fine in Europe

Google may be fined by European privacy regulators, after it failed to give adequate answers on why it made major policy changes last year.

The tech titan caused a storm last year when it announced it was to roll all its services’ privacy policies into one document. Privacy advocates saw the move as an abuse of trust, enabling Google to share user data across its products, without gaining prior permission.

Google in trouble with privacy regulators

google-london-officeIn October, French privacy regulator CNIL, working on behalf of European privacy regulators, ordered an “upgrade” to Google’s policy. It wanted Google to give users clearer information and better control over the ways their data was shared, threatening fines.

Google didn’t make the four month deadline it was given to respond adequately, CNIL said today, and could now be slapped with a monetary penalty. CNIL had previously suggested the controversial privacy policy may have violated European law.

“No answer has been given…  Google did not provide any precise and effective answers,” the official CNIL statement read, noting enforcement action should be announced “before the summer”. A meeting will be held with members of the Article 29 Working Party, which includes the UK’s privacy regulator, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO),  on 26 February to decide what form the punishment will take.

“In this context, the EU data protection authorities are committed to act and continue their investigations.”

Google said it was in line with the law, issuing a cooperative statement. “Our privacy policy respects European law and allows us to create simpler, more effective services. We have engaged fully with the CNIL throughout this process, and we’ll continue to do so going forward,” a Google spokesperson said, in an emailed statement sent to TechWeekEurope.

The ICO was contacted by TechWeekEurope, but it declined to comment. CNIL could not be reached.

Last year, Vint Cerf, founding father of the Internet and now a Google evangelist, told TechWeek he was puzzled about the furore surrounding the changes.

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