Google Faces Italian Deadline For User Data Policies

Google potentially faces more trouble in Italy after that country’s data protection watchdog gave the search engine giant an 18 month deadline to change its data usage policies.

It comes after the Italian privacy watchdog in April imposed a 1 million euro (£825,890) fine on Google, over its mistake back in 2010, when its Street View cars collected personal Wi-Fi data.

Data Policies

Italy’s data protection watchdog concluded its investigation that began last year. Italy, along with a number of other European countries, had investigated Google after it consolidated its 60 privacy policies across its entire online portfolio, including Google+ and Google Docs, down into just one single policy.

Regulators became concerned when it emerged that individual user data created from the user accessing YouTube, Gmail, Google+ and other online services would combine, and there was no way for users to opt out of that data collection.

According to Reuters, the Italian watchdog said in a statement that Google’s disclosure to users on how their data was being treated remained inadequate. This is despite Google having taken some steps to abide by Italian law.

Thus the watchdog has given Google 18 months to fully comply, and instructed what changes it requires of Google.

This includes not using a user’s data unless they have given their prior consent. Google will also have to tell users explicitly that the profiling was being done for commercial purposes. And Google has to delete personal information within two months, if a user requests it.

A spokesman for Google was quoted as saying that the company had always cooperated with the regulator and would continue to do so. The spokesman said Google would carefully review the regulator’s decision before taking any further steps. It will give the regulator a roadmap of the compliance steps it will take at the end of September.

European Trouble

If Google does not fully meet the Italian demand, it could likely risk a fine of up to 1 million euros (£790,000), and maybe even criminal proceedings.

In January this year, the French data watchdog fined Google 150,000 euros (£119,000) for ignoring a three-month deadline to clean up its data privacy policies. The Spanish regulator has also fined Google, and last November the Dutch regulator also confirmed that Google is breaking privacy laws in Holland.

In the UK, Google was also ordered to make changes to its privacy policies by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), although it is not clear at this stage if Google has met this request. That said, it was unlikely that Google would be fined if it didn’t comply with the UK demand.

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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...

View Comments

  • Why fines? This needs to be criminal proceeding against the head of the local Google outfit and the top dog at Google US.

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