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EU watchdogs promise 'repressive action' against Google over privacy row

Published time: February 18, 2013 16:33
Edited time: February 18, 2013 20:33
(AFP Photo / Daniel Mihailescu)

(AFP Photo / Daniel Mihailescu)

European data protection agencies intend to crack down on the US Internet giant Google before summer after it allegedly failed to follow their orders to comply with EU privacy laws, France’s data watchdog said.

"At the end of a four-month delay accorded to Google to comply with the European data protection directive and to implement effectively (our) recommendations, no answer has been given," France's Commission Nationale de l'Informatique et des Libertes (CNIL) data protection agency said in a statement on Monday.

CNIL, which led the probe on behalf of EU data-protection authorities, vowed EU regulators “are determined to act and continue their investigations” and their “repressive action.” CNIL did not elaborate on what those measures would entail.

European data protection agencies plan to set up a working group to "coordinate their coercive actions which should be implemented before the summer," and they will meet next week to approve the action plan, CNIL continued.

In October the data protection agencies warned Google that its new confidentiality policy was not in line with EU laws, giving the Internet giant four months to make changes or face legal action, including possible fines.

The regulators included a list of 12 "practical recommendations" which would bring Google’s privacy policy and data collection up to standard. The advisory centers on the firm’s automatic collection of personal data, ranging from browsig histories, to real-time location, to credit card details.

Google maintained in a statement released Monday that its confidentiality policy was not in breach of EU law.

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

Google's privacy policy—which allows the company to track users between services like Gmail and YouTube – has drawn fierce criticism from both US and European consumer advocacy groups.

The California-based firm argues the creation of a uniform set of policies for more than 60 of its products last year would improve the user experience and give them a more integrated view of its users – bringing them in line with Apple and Facebook.

EU competition authorities are separately investigating whether Google has used its search engine to promote its own services and hinder competitors like Microsoft by manipulating search rankings.

Google has offered to change some of its business practices in response to that probe in order to avoid billions of dollars in potential fines.

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