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Google fears France's privacy notification order will ruin its homepage

Google fears France's privacy notification order will ruin its homepage


Search giant requests suspension of order from French courts

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Google is trying to avoid public shaming by asking a French court to suspend an order forcing the company to notify users of its recent €150,000 fine, reports The Wall Street Journal. France's privacy watchdog, the Commission Nationale de l'Informatique et des Libertés, fined Google for its 2012 privacy policy change, which allowed it to consolidate 60 privacy policies into one and combine data from individual users across its different services.

The order handed down with the fine was very specific as to how the message should look: it should be placed on right below the search buttons, and it should be written in an Arial typeface no smaller than 13 points. That's much larger than any fine-print, and placing the message on Google's classically pristine homepage would ensure that all users see it. "This is something we've never seen before," Google representative Patrice Spinosi said during Thursday's hearing. "Google has always maintained that page in a virgin state." The company has asked a French court to suspend this order while it appeals the CNIL's decision and fine, but the CNIL insists that if Google can promote its own services on the homepage, it can also publish the news of the sanctions.

"Google has always maintained that page in a virgin state."

This comes on the heels of Google tentatively settling an antitrust complaint with the EU about its search engine, but the company still has many spats to take care of regarding its privacy polices and payment of taxes. While Google remains under investigation by the UK, Germany, and others, France is the first country to require Google to notify users of sanctions in such an obvious way, and with such specific instructions on how to do so.

However, messages like these are not uncommon — Apple was forced to publish a notice on its UK homepage after losing an appeal regarding Samsung tablet design. But after Apple added statements and tweaked the initial message's wording, it was later ruled "false and misleading," landing Apple in more trouble with the UK and Samsung. France's instructions seem to be a small way for the country to stop Google from intentionally misleading users about the fine, but rather than using poetic license with the notification, Google doesn't want to post it at all. The WSJ reports that Google believes a message on its homepage could cause "irreparable damage" to the company's reputation. Even if the message is only required to be up for two days, Google seems to think that's still enough time for the company to be tarnished in the eyes of French users.