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Google Given Three Months To Meet Privacy Law

French data protection agency threatens fines if privacy fixes aren't implemented soon.

Thomas Claburn

June 20, 2013

2 Min Read

France's national data protection agency, CNIL, has given Google three months to alter its privacy policy so that it conforms with French law. If the company fails to do so, CNIL warns that it may impose sanctions.

CNIL objects to Google's privacy policy because, it claims, Google users are not adequately informed how their data will be used and are not given enough control over their data. It also wants to ensure that data isn't held longer than necessary, that data is only combined in a lawful way, and that users provide informed consent when data is collected for analytics.

The agency says its goal is to encourage Google to conform with the law without limiting its ability to innovate.

Google didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

[ What do you know about NSA's digital dragnet? Read What Prism Knows: 8 Metadata Facts. ]

The agency also says that data protection authorities in Germany, Spain, France, Italy, the Netherlands and the U.K. plan to initiate legal proceedings against Google for privacy law violations in the respective countries.

These European data protection agencies have objected to Google's decision last year to harmonize its privacy policies across some 60 services.

When Google announced its plan to consolidate its privacy policies last year, the Article 29 Working Party, a European Union privacy body that includes CNIL representatives, asked Google to delay implementing the change to ensure there were no misunderstandings about Google's commitment to user privacy. Google refused, noting that it had briefed data protection authorities and provided both conspicuous notice to users of its services and adequate advanced warning of the change.

It also defended the change by pointing out that regulators have been asking for shorter, more comprehensible privacy policies.

Privacy has been something of a quagmire for Google in Europe, ever since the company revealed that its Street View cars, since 2007, had been collecting unprotected Wi-Fi data as they drove around.

Though such wholesale data gathering seems quaint following revelations about the extent of NSA data gathering and of private sector cooperation, it nonetheless continues to dog Google abroad if not in the U.S.

For example, the Article 29 Working Party, along with the privacy commissioners of Canada and Australia, wrote a letter to Google earlier this week seeking details about how Google Glass works, despite the fact that Google's Android-based eyewear is presently only available in the U.S. and has only been distributed to a few thousand people. In terms of privacy, Google's reputation precedes its products, at least among regulators.

About the Author(s)

Thomas Claburn

Editor at Large, Enterprise Mobility

Thomas Claburn has been writing about business and technology since 1996, for publications such as New Architect, PC Computing, InformationWeek, Salon, Wired, and Ziff Davis Smart Business. Before that, he worked in film and television, having earned a not particularly useful master's degree in film production. He wrote the original treatment for 3DO's Killing Time, a short story that appeared in On Spec, and the screenplay for an independent film called The Hanged Man, which he would later direct. He's the author of a science fiction novel, Reflecting Fires, and a sadly neglected blog, Lot 49. His iPhone game, Blocfall, is available through the iTunes App Store. His wife is a talented jazz singer; he does not sing, which is for the best.

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