Spanish Watchdog Fines Google
December 20, 2013

Spanish Watchdog Slaps Google With Max Fine For Data Practices

Peter Suciu for – Your Universe Online

Search engine giant Google was handed a fine by Spain’s privacy watchdog on Thursday for breaking that nation’s data protection law. Google was levied a 900,000 euro ($1.23 million USD) fine, the maximum amount possible under the law.

Spanish authorities allege Google has broken the country’s laws when it combined more than 70 privacy policies into one user information sharing policy last year.

“Inspections have shown that Google compiles personal information through close to one hundred services and products it offers in Spain, without providing in many cases the adequate information about the data that is being gathered, why it is gathered and without obtaining the consent of the owners,” said the Spanish Agency for Data Protection in a statement as reported by BGR.

The Spanish Agency for Data Protection was one of six European data protection agencies that had been preparing legal action against Google over its alleged failure to make changes to its privacy policy since last March. The other nations included France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom.

Back in March the search and ad giant maintained it had not violated European privacy laws and issued a statement that its privacy policy was in line with and “respects European law.”

In June however the European Commission said proposals made by Google to modify its search and advertising practices had failed to resolve concerns, and that Google was unfairly stifling competition.

Last month, the Dutch Data Protection Authority also found Google in breach of its own national data privacy law for similar practices, and said in a statement that the online search and ad giant doesn’t adequately inform users about the combining of personal data from its various services.

“Our privacy policy respects European law and allows us to create simpler, more effective services. We have engaged fully with the Dutch DPA throughout this process and will continue to do so going forward,” Google responded last month in a statement.

However, Google continues to face increasing pressure from other European authorities and local governments over its privacy policies as well as its ongoing business practices. Google’s privacy policy, which was created in March 2012, enables the company to share user data between its various services.

These services included its cloud services, its Gmail service, its Google search, as well as the YouTube video streaming site. The company maintained this enhanced the experience for the end users.

Critics countered that it made it easier for Google to build up a more specific and accurate picture of its users, and then use that information to pinpoint ads directly to those users. At the same time it gives the search giant an unprecedented ability to monitor its users.

Google has said it will consult the Spanish report and decide on further action at a later date, but as ZDnet noted on Thursday, this fine is really akin to a slap on the wrist for the search giant.

“The fine — though maximum under Spanish law, but modest to Google after making $50.2 billion in revenue last year — can be recouped by the search giant in less than 3 minutes, based on its last quarterly earnings,” ZDnet wrote.