Friday 22 September 2017

French data watchdog warns Google to change tack or face fines

Natalie Huet

France's data protection watchdog has ordered Google to change its privacy policy or face fines, leading a Europe-wide push to get the internet giant to clarify its intentions and methods for collecting user data.

France's regulator, the CNIL, said yesterday that Google's privacy policy violated French laws and gave the US company three months to make changes or risk a fine of up to €150,000 and a second one of €300,000 if it still failed to act.

The CNIL, which has been leading a European inquiry into Google's privacy policy since March 2012, said Britain, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Spain were undertaking similar infringement procedures. Overall the world's biggest search engine could face fines of several million euro.

"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.

Consolidation

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 European data protection regulators began a joint inquiry as a result. They gave Google until February to propose changes but it did not make any. Google met with the watchdogs several times 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 global internet companies.

Britain is still considering whether its law has been breached and will write to Google soon with its findings.

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 said by email. (Reuters)

Irish Independent

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