France says new Google policy violates EU law | Science| In-depth reporting on science and technology | DW | 29.02.2012
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France says new Google policy violates EU law

Google's new privacy policy is set to take effect March 1. European privacy officials and a UK advocacy group have also expressed concerns.

In a statement published to its website on Tuesday, the French data protection authority, known by its acronym, CNIL, says that Google's new privacy policy is in violation of European Union data protection law.

"Preliminary findings show that Google's new policy fails to meet the requirements of the European Data Protection Directive regarding the information that must be provided to data subjects," the group wrote in an English-language statement posted to its website.

"Moreover, the CNIL and the EU data protection authorities are deeply concerned about the combination of data across services and will continue their investigations with Google's representatives."

Google's new privacy policy, which is set to affect all Google users worldwide on March 1, 2012, plans on consolidating the company's privacy policy across all of its various services, including Gmail, Blogger, YouTube, Search and others. It also allows Google to combine behavioral tracking and serve advertisements across its different properties. For the last month, the company has made prominent notices across its myriad of sites, alerting users to these changes.

Google won't postpone changes

CNIL, and the Article 29 Working Group, a pan-EU data protection group re-iterated their concern that citizens will be unable to audit their own personal data use as easily.

Peter Fleischer, Global Privacy Counsel von Google. Undatierte Presseaufnahme, 2007

Google said again it would not postpone the changes

"By merging the privacy policies of its services, Google makes it impossible to understand which purposes, personal data, recipients or access rights are relevant to the use of a specific service," CNIL added. "As such, Google's new policy fails to meet the requirements of the European Data Protection Directive (95/46/CE) regarding the information that must be provided to data subjects."

In light of these concerns, various European authorities, including CNIL, have requested that Google delay its privacy changes.

But in a Tuesday letter to CNIL also posted to its European public policy blog, Peter Fleischer, Google's chief privacy counsel, re-iterated his belief that the new changes were compliant and that it would not postpone the introduction of these changes.

"Like all companies, we have struggled with the conundrum of how to pursue both of the CNIL's recommendations: How to 'streamline and simplify' our privacy policies, while at the same time providing 'comprehensive information' to our users," he wrote, adding that Google had "reached out" to CNIL on several occasions earlier this month.

Big Brother Watch on alert

CNIL and the European Union are not the only groups concerned with Google's new policy.

Also on Tuesday, Big Brother Watch, a British privacy advocacy group, said that in an online survey of over 2,000 Britons, while 92 percent of them use a Google service on a regular basis, 65 percent of people were not aware that the change was taking place this week, and 47 percent did not know that a change was being proposed at all.

"Much more needs to be done to inform consumers what these changes mean, and how they can take control of their personal information before the changes come into effect," the group wrote on its website. "The impact of Google's new policy cannot be understated, but the public are in the dark about what the changes actually mean."

Author: Cyrus Farivar
Editor: Joanna Impey

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