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France orders Google to change its privacy policy as UK and others consider similar action

France orders Google to change its privacy policy as UK and others consider similar action


Data protection watchdog threatens search giant with fines as year-long saga continues

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Google New York Chelsea Office (STOCK)
Google New York Chelsea Office (STOCK)

France's data protection agency has ordered Google to change its privacy policy, following a year-long investigation into the company's practices. In a press release published Thursday, the Paris-based Commission nationale de l'informatique et des libertés (CNIL) said Google's data collection policies are in violation of the French Data Protection Act, and gave the company three months to make adjustments. Should Google fail to make changes within three months, it would face an initial fine of up to €150,000 (about $198,300), and a second fine of up to €300,000 ($396,500) if the search company continues to neglect the CNIL's orders.

The CNIL also said that data watchdogs in Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, and the UK are considering similar actions against Google, which could result in more sanctions and fines.

Five other countries are considering similar sanctions

"By the end of July, all the authorities within the [EU data protection] task force will have taken coercive action against Google," CNIL President Isabelle Falque-Pierrotin told Reuters. Shortly after the CNIL's announcement, Italy's privacy watchdog announced that it has requested more information from Google as it considers implementing similar sanctions.

The CNIL, an independent watchdog, led an investigation into Google's data collection practices last year at the request of the European Union. Upon publishing its results in October 2012, the organization ordered the company to change its policy within four months, arguing that it violates French laws by collecting personal data without telling users how it will be used. In April, after Google failed to comply, the CNIL advised other EU governments to pursue action against the company.

Specifically, the CNIL is calling upon Google to clearly define the ways in which personal data is used, and to clarify how long it is retained. Google, as it has in the past, remains insistent that its policies are within the boundaries of EU law, and said it will continue to cooperate with European governments.

"Our privacy policy respects European law and allows us to create simpler, more effective services," a Google spokesperson said in an e-mail statement to The Verge. "We have engaged fully with the authorities involved throughout this process, and we’ll continue to do so going forward."