French Watchdog CNIL To Meet Google Over Privacy

Google will face questions directly from the French privacy watchdog next week over its decision to consolidate its privacy policies.

The news comes as the search engine giant continues to face ongoing pressure over its new user privacy policy, which is subject to a Europe-wide investigation. EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding has even previously said she believed Google’s privacy policy to be illegal.

French Meeting

According to Reuters, Google’s meeting with France’s data protection watchdog next week is part of the EC investigation, mainly because France is taking the lead role in the European investigation.

Back in February Commission Nationale de L’informatique et Des Libertes (CNIL) expressed its “deep concerns” about the policy and its adherence to the European Data Protection Directive. It felt it could violate the European Union’s data protection laws.

Then in March it sent Google a questionnaire containing 69 questions about its privacy practices. Google has reportedly answered these questions in a 94-page response.

Despite this, CNIL continues its attempts to determine whether Google’s privacy policy breaches European laws, related to how Google informs users that it is using their personal data. If it finds the search engine giant guilty, it could issue ‘financial penalties (up to 300,000 euros/£240,000) or administrative sanctions.’

“All options are on the table,” CNIL president Isabelle Falque-Pierrotin told Reuters in an interview.

“We are not totally satisfied with their responses so we have set up this meeting to discuss the issues with Google,” Falque-Pierrotin was quoted as saying. “We want to untangle the precise way that specific personal data is being used for individual services, and examine what the benefit for the consumer really is.”

Privacy Consolidation

Google announced plans to unify and consolidate around 70 different privacy policies in January and it was implemented on Google’s services on 1 March. The changes saw users of Google’s services such as Search, Gmail and YouTube treated as one individual, raising concerns over how the company will track Web users’ activity now that their accounts are linked.

The search giant has been keen to stress the benefits of the new policy, such as more personalised search results, but this has not been enough to appease organisations such as the US Senate, which has requested more information about the plans.

In the UK meanwhile, TechWeekEurope learned in March that the ICO would follow other European regulators, if the Article 29 Working Party decided to punish Google.

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Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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