Google Privacy Practices Being Investigated By European Union
April 2, 2013

Google Privacy Practices Being Investigated By European Union

Peter Suciu for — Your Universe Online

Six European data protection agencies are preparing possible legal action against search engine giant Google over its alleged failure to make changes to its privacy policy, according to an announcement on Tuesday. The nations include France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and the United Kingdom; the efforts are being led by France´s CNIL (Commission Nationale de l'Informatique et des Libertés), which is representing the European Commission's Article 29 Working Party.

Google reportedly faces fines from this inquiry that involves the six watch dog groups. However, the Internet search and ad giant maintains it hasn´t violated European privacy laws.

In a statement, Google said its privacy policy is in line with and “respects European law.”

“Our privacy policy respects European law and allows us to create simpler, more effective services,” a Google spokesperson further told the BBC. “We have engaged fully with the DPAs involved throughout this process, and we'll continue to do so going forward.”

The battle over privacy concerns goes back more than a year when Google consolidated about 70 or so of its privacy polices across its various products and services into one single policy. This policy was last modified on July 27, 2012.

With this change Google also switched to one profile for users across all of its services, which include Blogger, Search and YouTube, and this is reportedly where the problems begin.

In February of last year the Article 29 Working Party requested Google hold off on its privacy policy update, but the search giant refused.

In October of last year the CNIL then issued several recommendations to Google on how it might improve its privacy policies but the company again declined to make any changes, according to PCMag.

Google was then given four months to comply with the aforementioned recommendations and to bring its privacy policy into line with European law. The CNIL now alleges Google had failed to do so.

“After this period has expired, Google has not implemented any significant compliance measures,” the French data watchdog group said in a prepared statement.

“The article 29 working party´s analysis is finalized,” the CNIL continued. “It is now up to each national data protection authority to carry out further investigations according to the provisions of its national law transposing European legislation.

“Consequently, all the authorities composing the taskforce have launched actions on 2 April 2013 on the basis of the provisions laid down in their respective national legislation (investigations, inspections, etc.) In particular, the CNIL notified Google of the initiation of an inspection procedure and that it had set up an international administrative cooperation procedure with its counterparts in the taskforce,” it said.

This move by the CNIL and the other five watch dog groups come as Alma Whitten, Google´s director of privacy, announced she is stepping down from the post she has held since October 2010. She will reportedly remain at the company for the next couple of months during the transition period.

While Whitten had headed up the privacy group from Google´s London offices, her successor Lawrence You will take the helm based at the Mountain View headquarters.