Is Google’s Unified Privacy Policy Illegal in Europe?

Google logo (Robert Scoble Flickr)Google’s privacy policies are under investigation by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) to see if they are illegal under UK law.

The move comes after French data protection regulatory CNIL confirmed that Google had made no attempt to meets it concerns over its renewed privacy policies, first unveiled in March 2012, despite its numerous complaints that the changes were illegal.

In a statement on its website, the CNIL confirmed that despite meeting with Google, the firm had refused to take any action to appease its concerns.

“On 19 March 2013, representatives of Google were invited at their request to meet with the taskforce led by the CNIL and composed of data protection authorities of France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, and the UK. Following this meeting, no change has been seen,” it said.

The ICO has subsequently confirmed that an investigation is now underway.

“The ICO has launched an investigation into whether Google’s revised March 2012 privacy policy is compliant with the Data Protection Act,” a spokesperson said. “The action follows an initial investigation by the French data protection authority CNIL, on behalf of the Article 29 group of which the ICO is a member.”

The ICO also confirmed that several other data protection authorities in Europe are also considering action against the search giant.

A Google spokesperson said the company will work with the regulators on the issue.

“Our privacy policy respects European law and allows us to create simpler, more effective services. We have engaged fully with the data protection authorities involved throughout this process, and we’ll continue to do so going forward.”

The director of privacy advocates Big Brother Watch, Nick Pickles, said the move by the ICO should serve as a warning to Google that it could not ignore the law.
“Google has repeatedly put profit ahead of user privacy and the way that the company ignored concerns from regulators around the world when it changed its privacy policy showed just how little regard it has for the law,” he said. “Just because Google is a big business does not put it above the law. The company has ignored the authorities and refused to make any meaningful changes to how it collects sand uses people’s data.”
He urged those investigating such as the ICO to ensure it does not just issue “a slap on the wrists” and takes tough action against the firm.

The issue has rumbled on for over a year, also despite concerns by U.S. authorities after Google consolidated 60 separate privacy policies into one single document.

This article was originally published on V3.

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