Friday

24th Feb 2017

Google privacy policy breaks law, EU data chiefs say

  • EU data protection chiefs say Google's privacy settings break law. (Photo: Jonathas Rodrigues)

Search-engine Google has been ordered to re-write its data collection rules after EU regulators found that they were in breach of EU data protection laws.

A letter to Google CEO Larry Page signed by 24 of the EU's 27 national data protection regulators said that the software-giant had "not demonstrated that your company endorses the key data protection principles of purpose limitation, data quality, data minimisation, proportionality and right to object."

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

The regulators, who collectively make up the Article 29 working party on data protection, also spelt out a 12-point plan for Google to comply with EU law on data protection and retention as well as the e-privacy directive.

These include requirements to get explicit consent from users to use and combine their data and create a simple opt-out mechanism for users. Google should also publish how it uses and processes personal data. However, they have steered clear of accusing the software-giant of intentionally breaking the law and of possible fines or other sanctions.

The report concludes a long-running investigation into Google's practices led by French data regulator CNIL starting in March over the ways that Google collects personal data.

Google changed its data collection practices in March after warning customers using its Gmail and Google+ network of the change. It had claimed that the new Privacy Policy, which allows the company to collect and combine data from any of its services, enabled it to improve the accuracy of its search results and targeted adverts and was not in breach of European law.

Following the announcement, Auke Haagsma, director of ICOMP, a group of software companies including Microsoft that campaigns against Google's dominant market status, told this website that the "unprecedented action by close to 30 privacy enforcement agencies all over Europe shows the severity of Google’s violations.”

“Google wants us to believe that enforcing the privacy laws will end the Internet as we know it, but the opposite is true. It is only if users’ trust that their personal data will not be collected and used against their wishes, that they feel confident enough to use all the important possibilities that the internet offers,” he said.

MEPs also lined up to launch broadsides against Google with MEPs Angelika Niebler and Philippe Juvin, who chair the centre-right EPP's working group on Internet policy, commenting that "Google must change its standards and raise them."

For his part, Belgian centre-left MEP Marc Tarabella, said that it was "unacceptable that European consumers are not clearly aware of what Google does with data inputted by them in good faith into the search engine."

Monique Goyens, director general of the European Consumer Organisation (BEUC), said that the investigation confirmed "our concerns that Google's privacy policy sits on the wrong side of EU data protection rules".

Google said it needs time to come with full response.

"We have received the report and are reviewing it now," said Peter Fleischer, Google's global privacy counsel.

"Our new privacy policy demonstrates our long-standing commitment to protecting our users' information and creating great products. We are confident that our privacy notices respect European law."

The ruling comes as the European Parliament prepares to enter negotiations on plans to overhaul EU data protection rules.

The reforms published by the European Commission in January include steps to increase people's control over their personal data, giving them the right to remove their data from company lists. It also tightens the rules on how companies can use data.

Focus

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.

EU data protection rules 'on schedule' despite delay

Despite not having begun formal deliberations in committee, the European Parliament is on course to define its position on the EU's new data protection regime by mid-2013, according to data privacy expert Sophie In't Veld.

Focus

Malta's push for LGBT rights

Malta has, in a short space of time, emerged as a champion for LGBTIQ rights. Activists hope the Maltese EU presidency will help to put their rights higher on the EU agenda.

Column / Brexit Briefing

Searching for a voice and a standard bearer

As Britons come to terms with the reality of Brexit many Remainers are now listless, looking for someone to present a viable alternative to Theresa May's dominance

News in Brief

  1. Spanish court jails former IMF chief Rato
  2. Macron proposes Nordic-style economic model for France
  3. Germany posts record high budget surplus
  4. Labour ousts Ukip in Brexit homeland
  5. Dutch lower house approves EU-Ukraine treaty
  6. WTO says Russian pork ban was illegal
  7. Belgian nuclear plant made 'significant progress' on safety
  8. Report: Commission gauging EU support for Poland sanctions

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EURORDISJoin the Rare Disease Day and Help to Advocate for More Research on Rare Diseases
  2. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceStudents Who Are Considered Fit Get Better Grades in School
  3. QS World MBA TourMeet with Leading International Business Schools in Paris on March 4th
  4. Malta EU 2017Economic Governance: Agreement Reached on Structural Reform Support Programme for Member States
  5. Socialists & DemocratsWomen Have to Work Ten Years Longer to Match Lifetime Earnings of Men
  6. Counter BalanceTrans-Adriatic Pipeline Is a Major Risk for Banks, Warns New Analysis
  7. Martens CentreEU and US Migration Policies Compared: Join the Debate on February 28th
  8. Swedish EnterprisesTechnology and Data Flows - Shaping the Society of Tomorrow
  9. UNICEFNearly 1.4 Million Children at Risk of Death as Famine Looms Across Africa and Yemen
  10. Malta EU 2017End of Roaming Fees: Council Reaches Agreement on Wholesale Caps
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Innovation House Opens in New York to Help Startups Access US Market
  12. Centre Maurits CoppietersMinorities and Migrations