UK Privacy Watchdog ICO Threatens Google
July 5, 2013

Google Gets New Threat From UK Privacy Watchdog ICO

Michael Harper for - Your Universe Online

The battle over Google and their privacy policies continues in the UK and much of Europe as privacy watchdogs call the search giant out for the way they borrow data from each of their services. The Information Commissioner in the UK now says Google's privacy policies could be a breech of the Data Protection Act and has given them 11 weeks to address their complaints.

Google uses one general privacy policy under which all of their services fall, including YouTube and Google+. The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) and others claim this policy allows the Google to take information they receive from a user on one service and use it in other Google-operated offerings without giving users a chance to opt-out. The ICO in particular takes issue with this policy, saying it could be in violation of the protection act which they're responsible for upholding. And though Google recently updated the fine print of their policy in an attempt to ameliorate privacy concerns, the ICO say it wasn't enough.

"We have today written to Google to confirm our findings relating to the update of the company's privacy policy. In our letter we confirm that its updated privacy policy raises serious questions about its compliance with the UK Data Protection Act," said an ICO spokesperson in an official statement.

"In particular, we believe that the updated policy does not provide sufficient information to enable UK users of Google's services to understand how their data will be used across all of the company's products."

The ICO has official authority to protect certain privacy acts such as the UK Data Protection Act of 1998, Freedom of Information Act of 2000 and the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulation of 2003. As such, the ICO has legal powers to hit the American company with a $744,200 fine. Though they have the power to levy this fine against Google if they don't address their concerns by September 20, CNet UK says this action is unlikely.

Other privacy advocacy groups in Germany and France are also threatening to fine Google for a privacy policy they believe is overreaching. When signed into any Google service, the company uses the information gathered there for their others sites as well. Therefore, a person who has willingly given Google personal information in Gmail will have the same information used in YouTube without having to provide additional consent. This allows the ad-driven company to create targeted ads for users across each of their services.

This latest run-in with the ICO and others is only another in a long line of legal battles the search company has had with Internet privacy advocates from across the globe.

It was less than two months ago lawyers were being pressured by Internet users to get tough with Google concerning their privacy policies. Though the ICO is now threatening Google with a half-million pound fine, some feel this isn't enough to make a lasting impression on a company that pulls in that amount of money in just two hours each day. These lawyers are fighting for clear warnings from Google about the way they use customer data, separate policies for each of their services, and a clear apology from the company posted on their homepage.