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

'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.

TOPICS: Privacy, Google, Legal, EU

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, Google, Legal, EU

Liam Tung

About Liam Tung

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, security and telecommunications journalist with ZDNet Australia. These days Liam is a full time freelance technology journalist who writes for several publications.

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  • the EU should stop targeting google

    The EC knows nothing about google's business!
    They are only looking for a take to plug their lame financials.
    LlNUX Geek
    • They know that Google's business is targeted advertising...

      …which relies on collecting as much data in as many ways as they can, and they don't like it.
      Pretty astute of them, I'd say.
    • How did I know

      That you would be on here slavishly defending Google? At least this time you did not try to conjure up your "axis of evil". I also noticed that you did not comment on the fact of Google invading people's privacy. I take it that you are okay with Google invading someone's privacy?

      And I simply love this little gem: "The EC knows nothing about google's business!" Well now - why is Google being so secretive about it's business?

      And then there is this lovely quote: "They are only looking for a take to plug their lame financials." So tell me something - why is it when it's Apple being sued by the EC or EU it's okay and Apple deserves it but when Google is on the line for invading people's privacy suddenly the EU/EC does not know Google's business and they are simply plugging their financials? Especially when it is a proven FACT that Google did invade people's privacy.
  • Large parts of the world don't support amnesty fore collaborators

    Just because it is convenient for some to ignore collaboration with Nazis and Stasis does not make it incumbent on Google to bury the truth. EC courts should think first about adding freedom of the press to European freedoms.
    • "Collaborators"?

      What truth do you think Google is burying and how does this related to freedom of the press?
      John L. Ries
  • 'We fined Google pocket money, it should have been $1bn', says Europe's jus

    Then they should have fined Google $1bn instead of something lighter. It would have really brought justice to the EU and Google.
    • probably somewhere in their hearts they feel Google as fellow commie.

      Ram U
    • Why so?

      Some detail would be helpful here, noting both that it's not a crime to compete against MS, and that the EU can only punish companies for violations of its own laws.
      John L. Ries
      • the same thing can be said for

        Apple, MS or Intel, that it's not a crime to compete against.
        Ram U
        • No, it's not a crime to compete against Apple or Intel either

          Though all three firms sometimes act as if it is. It's why I take the anti-Google talk (known to be orchestrated by MS) with a very large halite crystal.
          John L. Ries
      • They were already going to fine them

        And they were going to fine them a billion dollars. Why not just do it?
        • According to the article...

          ...this would be because current law doesn't allow it. Apparently, at least one commissioner would like to change that.

          But do you have any idea what Google is alleged to have done, whether it's actually guilty, or whether the conduct of which Google was found guilty actually warrants a billion dollar fine? I doubt it.

          It's not like you would have taken the ECs word for it if Google had been exonerated.
          John L. Ries