Monday

12th Apr 2021

Google in EU privacy row over Street View data

Search-engine Google is at the centre of an embarrassing data privacy row after French and British regulators demanded access to all Wi-Fi data collected for its Street View site.

The move came when Google's legal advisor Peter Fleischer admitted in a letter sent last week (27 July) to the UK information commissioner that personal data collected in 2008 and 2009 had not been destroyed.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

  • Google is under fire after it admitted keeping Street View data. (Photo: Google Earth)

In a statement released on Wednesday (1st August), the French CNIL confirmed that it had "asked Google to make available the data in question and to secure time to conduct all necessary investigations."

The search-engine had initially claimed to have deleted all personal data collected by its Street View cars but admitted that the company had "determined that we continue to have payload data from the UK and other countries."

Fleischer insisted that Google was ready to "delete the remaining UK data" adding that they were "prepared to arrange for you to review this data, or to destroy it."

CNIL has also fined Google €100,000 for retaining the data, which includes personal passwords and login details, online searches and email exchanges. For its part, the ICO said that the software giant faced a £500,000 fine for failing to meet its commitments.

Google uses cars to collect Wi-Fi data for its Street View service which is used for its Google Maps application allowing consumers to access detailed images of local sites.

The French regulator is already leading an investigation into Google's privacy policies, which were revised earlier this year in April, on behalf of the EU's Article 29 working group on data privacy. It is expected to report in September.

The incident also has implications for the ongoing negotiations on the EU data protection package.

Under the proposals tabled by Justice commissioner Viviane Reding in January, rules on the processing and use of data would be tightened, including a 'right to be forgotten' - giving people the right to have personal data deleted if there are no legitimate reasons to keep it.

It also aims to increase the level of harmonisation across the EU's 27 member states with firms answerable to national data supervisors.

In its legal opinion on the bills, the European data protection supervisor called on legislators to increase enforcement powers for national authorities and pan-EU co-ordination, voicing its concerns about differing national enforcement regimes.

The UK office has faced criticism from data privacy campaigners and MPs. In a press statement, Nick Pickles, director of the UK-based Big Brother Watch, complained that "the ICO is hampered by a woeful lack of powers and is forced to trust organisations to tell the truth."

He added that Google's behaviour emphasised the need to "demand a proper regulator with the powers and punishments to fully protect British people's privacy."

Under the new regime, companies flouting data protection rules could face fines of up to 2 percent of their annual turnover, potentially leaving the likes of Google open to multi-million-euro fines.

EU institutions take on Google over privacy regime

Google is under fire for its new privacy policy, which came into force on Thursday, with the French Data Protection Authority and the EU commission indicating that it falls foul of EU law.

Opinion

Google's collision course with member states

The regulators have issued so many warnings to Google, and the issues raised are so integral to how Europeans view their fundamental human rights, that it is difficult to see how the EU regulators can back down.

Pressure mounts on EU cloud deal as deadline looms

The European Commission is under pressure to keep to its self-imposed September deadline to publish an EU cloud computing strategy, as new evidence revealed widespread public confusion about it.

News in Brief

  1. Turkey blames EU for sexist protocol fiasco
  2. France to close elite civil-service academy
  3. Covid-19 cases in UK drop 60%, study finds
  4. White House urges 'calm' after Northern Ireland riots
  5. Italy's Draghi calls Turkey's Erdoğan a 'dictator'
  6. Slovakia told to return Sputnik V amid quality row
  7. EU risks €87bn in stranded fossil fuel assets
  8. Obligatory vaccination not against human rights, European court says

Column

Why Germans understand the EU best

In Germany, there is commotion about a new book in which two journalists describe meetings held during the corona crisis between federal chancellor Angela Merkel, and the 16 prime ministers of its federal constituent states.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersDigitalisation can help us pick up the green pace
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersCOVID19 is a wake-up call in the fight against antibiotic resistance
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region can and should play a leading role in Europe’s digital development
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council to host EU webinars on energy, digitalisation and antibiotic resistance
  5. UNESDAEU Code of Conduct can showcase PPPs delivering healthier more sustainable society
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersWomen benefit in the digitalised labour market

Latest News

  1. The Covid bell tolls for eastern Europe's populists
  2. Four deaths after taking Russian Sputnik V vaccine
  3. Post-Brexit riots flare up in Northern Ireland
  4. Advice on AstraZeneca varies across EU, amid blood clot fears
  5. Greenland election could see halt to rare-earth mining
  6. After 50 years, where do Roma rights stand now?
  7. Why Iran desperately wants a new nuclear deal
  8. Does new EU-ACP deal really 'decolonise' aid?

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us