Europe acts against Google over privacy

Europe acts against Google over privacy

Europe acts against Google over privacy

The world’s biggest search engine Google could face fines of several million euros after France warning over its privacy policy.

France’s data protection watchdog ordered Google yesterday 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.

Paris’ formal warning gives the company three months to make changes to its privacy practices, such as specifying to users what it is using personal data for. If not, Google risks a fine of up to 300,000 euros by France, and millions of euros across all six countries.

The legal action accelerates a Europe-wide fight against Google over its use of personal data. While the fines threatened are small by the standards of one of the world’s richest companies, the move puts new pressure on Google as it smarts from recent criticism over providing customer data to U.S. government surveillance efforts.

The French National Commission on Computing and Freedom (CNIL), which has been leading a European inquiry into Google’s privacy policy since it began in 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 euros. “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.

In Britain, the Information Commissioner’s Office said its investigation into whether Google’s privacy policy complies with U.K. law is still underway as part of coordinated action by regulators around Europe. A spokesman for the ICO said it will soon contact Google about its findings.

Spain’s data protection agency did not have immediate comment on the French statement. The Dutch privacy watchdog, the College for the Protection of Personal Data, said it is investigating Google’s “privacy conditions” but spokeswoman Lysette Rutgers declined further comment while the investigation is ongoing. The scrutiny comes at a delicate time for Google after revelations that the U.S. National Security Agency has secretly gathered user data from nine big U.S. Internet companies, including Google, to track certain individuals’ movements and contacts over time.

Google ‘respects’ European law

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. 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,” said Google spokesman Al Verney.

Compiled from AP and Reuters stories by the Daily News staff.

Snowden in Iceland talks

STOCKHOLM - Agence France-Presse

Iceland said June 19 it has held informal talks with an intermediary of U.S. intelligence leaker Edward Snowden who reportedly may want to seek political asylum there. “A representative of his has, to my knowledge... had some informal discussions with some employees of a couple of ministries, but no formal discussions,” Prime Minister Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson said. He said that Snowden, who is holed up in Hong Kong, would need to be in Iceland in order to apply for asylum.