Google facing European privacy investigation

Google is facing European-wide investigations into its controversial privacy policy after failing to meet a four-month deadline to address concerns raised by the French data watchdog CNIL.

The concerns were originally raised in October 2012 following Google's decision earlier that year to combine the privacy policies from all of its products and services into a single, overarching policy. This allowed Google to share data collected in one service, such as Gmail or YouTube, with any of its other platforms.

In October last year CNIL said it wanted Google to address questions of “lawfulness and fairness” within four months.  “After this period has expired, Google has not implemented any significant compliance measures,” CNIL said on its website, adding that it warned Google at a meeting during March that action against the company was possible. “Following this meeting, no change has been seen,” CNIL said.

Consequently authorities in France, Germany, the Netherlands, Italy and Spain have started investigations, while in the UK the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) has confirmed its own investigation into Google's privacy policy. The ICO has been heavily criticised in the past for not coming down hard enough on Google.

“All the authorities composing the taskforce have launched actions on 2 April 2013 on the basis of the provisions laid down in their respective national legislation,” confirmed the CNIL statement. “In particular, the CNIL notified Google of the initiation of an inspection procedure and that it had set up an international administrative cooperation procedure with its counterparts in the taskforce.”

In a statement released to the BBC Google said it would continue to work with European authorities. “Our privacy policy respects European law and allows us to create simpler, more effective services. We have engaged fully with the DPAs involved throughout this process, and we'll continue to do so going forward.”

CNIL had previously fined Google €100,000 over the collection of personal data by its Street View cars.

The news comes as Google's privacy director Alma Whitten steps down from the role. London-based Whitten, who was Google's first hire in that role, will be replaced by software engineer Lawrence You, who is based at Google's HQ in Mountain View, California.

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