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Google Reprimanded by French Data Protection Agency, Could Face Fine

Google may be facing more fines if it does not clean up its European privacy policy.

Two months after being hit with a record $22.5-million civil penalty for Internet privacy violations, Google is facing  censure in Europe for breaching EU law by collecting users’ personal data.

In an Oct. 16 ruling, the CNIL, a French data protection agency, said Google failed to set “any limit concerning the scope of the collection and the potential uses of the personal data.” The changes Google introduced in March also did not give users the chance to opt out of the changes, the CNIL said.

The changes combined individual “silos” of data assembled by services such as Google’s search service, YouTube and Maps into a lone data-store so it could tailor adverts and content more closely.

If the search engine giant does not undo the changes, France could impose fines on the company within “three to four months,” said CNIL chairwoman Isabelle Falque-Pierrotin.

In a statement e-mailed to media outlets following the CNIL press conference, Google’s global privacy counsel Peter Fleischer said the firm was “confident that our privacy notices respect European law.”

Although other countries are not obliged to follow France’s lead, it’s likely they too will demand Google revamp the policy. EU authorities had requested the CNIL carry out the review. The findings have been examined by European national regulators and by data-protection authorities in Canada, Australia, and a handful of Asian countries.

If Google refuses to modify its policy, it would be “almost certain to increase any fine that the regulators may wish to impose,” Chris Watson, head of the telecommunications practice at the law firm of CMS Cameron McKenna in London, was quoted by Businessweek.

The CNIL ruling comes 10 weeks after the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) fined Google $22.5 million. The  civil penalty was to settle accusations the company broke a privacy policy by improperly tracking Apple Safari users. The penalty remains the biggest fine the agency has imposed against a corporation for breaching a previous agreement with the agency.

The FTC said Google unlawfully planted cookies in Safari, bypassing Apple privacy settings so Google could track users’ browsing habits.

Google is also facing an antitrust lawsuit courtesy of the U.S. government.

Federal Trade Commission staff members are set to recommend the agency sue Google in connection to allegations that the firm manipulated search results to suppress the competition and increase online advertising prices.

According to news reports, the staff recommendation is contained in a draft memo of 100-plus pages that is being shared with the five FTC commissioners.

Reuters and The New York Times cited their sources as “unnamed people briefed on the FTC’s investigation.”

The FTC, which has been investigating the situation for more than a year, will make a decision on how to proceed later this fall, the Reuters report said. The agency is also building a team in case it takes Google to court.

 

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Jennifer Cowan

Jennifer Cowan is the Managing Editor for SiteProNews.

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  • avatar Google Facing Fines Over Data Collection in France – Five Other Countries Expected to Follow French Data Protection Agency’s Lead | The IT Chronicle says:

    […] Google did little to adhere to recommendations made by European regulators last fall.  Google was a told Oct. 16, 2012 it had four months to change its privacy […]

  • avatar Google Facing Fines Over Data Collection Policy in U.K., Germany | The IT Chronicle says:

    […] Google has done little to adhere to recommendations made by European regulators last fall.  Google was told on Oct. 16, 2012 it had four months to change its privacy […]

  • […] Google did little to adhere to recommendations made by European regulators last fall.  Google was a told Oct. 16, 2012 it had four months to change its privacy […]

  • […] Google did little to adhere to recommendations made by European regulators last fall.  Google was a told Oct. 16, 2012 it had four months to change its privacy […]