Europe: Google ordered to rewrite privacy policy or face legal sanctions

Internet giant Google has been given an ultimatum by regulators in several European countries to rewrite its privacy policy, or face legal sanctions.

Privacy watchdogs in the UK, Italy and Germany have asked Google to recast its privacy policy introduced on 2012, which as it stands allows the U.S. corporation to unify its user data collection across its multitude of online services including Google search, Gmail, YouTube, Google +, Google Maps and around 60 other Google products in a move experts say would allow the company to target advertising more effectively.

The move sparked a row with European privacy regulators, whose joint calls for Google to halt the changes were ignored. The Information Commissioner’s ultimatum follows similar action from French and Spanish regulators.

“We believe that the updated policy does not provide sufficient information to enable UK users of Google’s services to understand how their data will be used across all of the company’s products,” a spokesman for the Information Commissioner said on Wednesday.

“Google must now amend their privacy policy to make it more informative for individual service users.”

The Internet giant has been given three months until September 20 to comply with the regulators’ requests, or face the “possibility of formal enforcement action.” “We have today written to Google to confirm our findings relating to the update of the company’s privacy policy,” the ICO said in a statement. “In our letter we confirm that its updated privacy policy raises serious questions about its compliance with the U.K. Data Protection Act.”

Google has already been censured in Europe over its collection of Wi-Fi data, including usernames, passwords and web page viewing while collecting photos for its Street View system. Both European privacy authorities and US legislators have demanded clarification from the company about the data protection implications of its Google Glass head-mounted system, which can take pictures and video without onlookers knowing. It has also been implicated in a data-sharing row over the NSA’s Prism program, which has collected information from a number of US companies including Google, Microsoft and Apple.

Google said in a statement: “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.”

Google’s statement however did not explain how its current privacy policy could both “respect” European law and yet be considered objectionable by several major European regulators.


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