France heads EU showdown with Google

PARIS -- The controversial new Google privacy policy angers the European Union, with France speaking out on behalf of the EU data security organizations.
Written by Bryan Pirolli, Correspondent (Paris)

PARIS – France is leading other EU countries in the charge against Google and a new privacy policy put in place recently.  The French Commission on Information Technology and Liberties, known as CNIL, has lambasted Google for moving forward despite requests from European data protection authorities to delay the new measures.  According to CNIL, the new policies violate the EU privacy protection policy.

Google has recently expanded in France, having made Paris the new headquarters for much of their international business.  The internet mogul, however, has already ruffled some feathers among European authorities.  CNIL has fined Google 100,000 euros in 2011 for issues with Street View photos infringing on privacy.  Last month the company made headlines again when a Frenchman sued Google for including Street View photos of the man urinating in his garden.

Now Google has angered not just one individual, but the European Union.  In order to consolidate their privacy policies across their services, the company has launched one comprehensive policy that covers 60 of its sites, including Gmail and YouTube.  The move will allow more precision tracking of users’ information and habits, supposedly leading to easier targeting for advertisers.  Unable to limit or opt out of the tracking, web users have no say in the matter, stirring up controversy among watchdog groups and authorities.

The EU, however, in a letter dated February 27, told Google that the new privacy policy does not comply with the European Directive on Data Protection.  In addition to giving, in some cases, only a few hours of notice before going public with the new measures, Google did not sufficiently debrief the European authorities, according to the letter.

The larger issue, however, is the obscurity of the new policy and uncertainty about how the information collected will be used.  French state advisor and CNIL president Isabelle Falque-Pierrotin wrote in the letter that more information is needed about how Google will exploit user data since there are many varied services being grouped under one privacy policy.  “It is impossible for average users who read the new policy to distinguish which purposes, collected data, recipients or access rights are currently relevant to their use of a particular Google service,” she wrote.

In her letter, Falque-Pierrotin told Google that a questionnaire will be sent on behalf of CNIL by mid-March.  Google has acknowledged the letter, but moved ahead anyway with its new policy as of March 1with no word yet on how the EU may respond.

Photo: Flickr Marcin Wichary

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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