Google pushed by Europe to change privacy policy

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Google pushed by Europe to change privacy policy

France, Spain lead effort.

France and Spain have spearheaded a Europe-wide push to get Google to change its policies on collecting user data.

The launch of the push follows the revelation that the US National Security Agency under the PRISM surveillance program secretly gathered user data from nine US companies, including Google, to track people's movements and contacts.

France's data protection watchdog (CNIL) said Google had broken French law and gave it three months to change its privacy policies or risk a fine of up to 150,000 (A$215,130).

Spain's Data Protection Agency (AEPD) told Google it would be fined between €40,000 and €300,000 for each of the five violations of the law. It said Google had failed to be clear about what it did with data and may be processing a "disproportionate" amount and holding onto it for an "undetermined or unjustified" period of time.

The CNIL, which has been leading Europe's inquiry since Google launched its consolidated privacy policy in March 2012, said Britain, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands would be taking similar action against the world's No. 1 search engine.

"By the end of July, all the authorities within the (EU data protection) task force will have taken coercive action against Google," said CNIL President Isabelle Falque-Pierrotin.

Last year, Google consolidated its 60 privacy policies into one and started combining data collected on individual users across its services, including YouTube, Gmail and social network Google+. It gave users no means to opt out.

National data protection regulators in Europe began a joint inquiry as a result. They gave Google until February to propose changes but it did not make any. Google had several meetings with the watchdogs and argued that combining its policies made it easier for users to understand.

The CNIL's move is seen by legal experts and policymakers as a test of Europe's ability to influence the behaviour of international Internet companies.

Britain is still considering whether its law has been broken and will write to Google soon with its findings, the CNIL said.

Google is due to answer allegations on the issue in a German court hearing late next week, a spokesman for the country's data protection regulator said.

Google said it would continue to work with the authorities in France and elsewhere.

"Our privacy policy respects European law and allows us to create simpler, more effective services. We have engaged fully with the authorities involved throughout this process, and we'll continue to do so going forward," a spokesman.


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