'We fined Google pocket money, it should have been $1bn', says Europe's justice chief

Summary:Europe's justice commissioner has argued for data protection regulators to have stronger powers to deal with tech giants.

EU justice chief says Google would have been fined $1bn if European member states supported tougher sanctions in an upcoming refresh of European data protection law.

In a bid to drum up support among member states for tougher pan-European data protection laws, Viviene Reding, the EC justice commissioner, has reminded European lawmakers that the union's current enforcement powers aren't up to the task of tackling multinationals.

While data protection authorities in France and Spain recently found Google's new consolidated privacy policy violated current data protection rules, their fines of €150,000 and €900,000 respectively were little more than "pocket money" for Google.

"Taking Google's 2012 performance figures, the fine in France represents 0.0003 percent of its global turnover. Pocket money," said Reding.

"Is it surprising to anyone that two whole years after the case emerged, it is still unclear whether Google will amend its privacy policy or not?"

A sum that Google would have found much harder to brush off would be the two percent of global turnover, a figure which had been included in earlier drafts of the legislation.

"In the Google case, that would have meant a fine of €731m [$1bn],"  said Reding.

A European Parliament last October voted in favour of even harsher penalties of up to five percent of global revenue. However, the proposals hit a snag in December when Germany resisted the 'one stop shop' idea they contained, citing concerns that a single European data protection authority may compromise Germany's existing data protection laws.

"Member states... have been stalling," said Reding. "Even after the shocking revelations of mass spying and surveillance which continue to dominate the headlines, they have so far mainly reacted with words. EU heads of state and government have committed to a 'timely' adoption of the new framework. But in real terms there has been little action."

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Topics: Privacy, EU, Google, Legal

About

Liam Tung is an Australian business technology journalist living a few too many Swedish miles north of Stockholm for his liking. He gained a bachelors degree in economics and arts (cultural studies) at Sydney's Macquarie University, but hacked (without Norse or malicious code for that matter) his way into a career as an enterprise tech, s... Full Bio

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