Google Once Again in Hot Water Across the Pond

October 25, 2012

The European Union’s love affair with Google continues. The Guardian reports, “Google ‘to be Told by EU to Unravel Privacy Policy’.” Last March the company made some changes to its European privacy policy which seem to have rankled the EU’s “data protection chiefs.” The main bone of contention—Google failed to provide users with the chance to opt out of the changes. All this is going on, by the way, as Google has been meeting with the European Commission’s competition division about its (alleged) search results manipulations.

The article asserts that by handing the case to the French data protection commissioner, the EU has signaled that it means business. France’s CNIL is considered more aggressive than its counterparts in other countries, like the UK’s ICO. Writer Charles Arthur consulted privacy expert Chris Watson, who opined:

“By putting the CNIL in charge of this, the EU was going for blood. It was a declaration of intent. . . . The point is that Google is an international company which is leveraging its power in the browser and its other services in a way that affects national businesses all over the EU. There’s great political importance in the data protection commissioners doing something.”

Though Google was warned that its proposed privacy policy changes might violate EU law, the company proceeded anyway. (Surprised, surprise.) The article characterizes the changes:

“Google brought together separate ‘silos’ of data collected from services such as its search service, YouTube and Maps into a single datastore so that it could tailor adverts and content more closely. Google said then the new policy would simplify the user experience, and said it was confident it had obeyed ‘all European data protection laws and principles’.”

It is? Many seem to disagree with that assessment. I suppose whether Google has obeyed those laws will be up to the CNIL to decide.

Cynthia Murrell, October 25, 2012

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