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Google faces EU privacy investigation

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Google is being formally investigated by six European countries for refusing to amend its unified privacy policy.

Introduced in March last year, Google’s privacy policy was designed to allow the search engine giant to combine information from a variety of Google sources, including Gmail, Android smartphones and YouTube to create a single, all-encompassing profile for each user.

By tracking the user’s behaviour using these various devices, Google is much more able to enforce accurate targeted advertising for every user.

Prior to last year, data collected from Google services was kept separately, but Google merged the information under its unified privacy policy, much to the protestation of French privacy watchdog, CNIL, working on behalf of a number of European regulators.

Google does not provide an opt-out option for its users and continued to use the privacy policy despite EU pressure to amend it.

The Information Commissioner’s Office has now confirmed that Google will face an official investigation, launched by CNIL. However, the French watchdog will now be joined by the UK, France, Spain, Italy and the Netherlands.

“The ICO has launched an investigation into whether Google’s revised March 2012 privacy policy is compliant with the Data Protection Act,” a spokesperson said. “The action follows an initial investigation by the French data protection authority CNIL. Several data protection authorities across Europe are now considering whether the policy is compliant with their own national legislation.”

“As this is an ongoing investigation it would not be appropriate to comment further.”

Google could face fines of up to £500,000 if it is found to be in breach of the UK Data Protection Act, and could incur enforcement notices to amend its privacy policies. This would mean a great cost and a lot of work for the search engine giant to fix its privacy policies and the data held due to those policies.

CNIL originally gave Google 4 months to respond to its original allegations, but said the company “has not implemented any significant compliance measures”.

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

Are you aware of Google’s unified privacy policies? Do you think such a policy is fairly disconcerting as a web user? Give us your thoughts on the matter via the TrustedReviews Facebook and Twitter pages or the comments below.  

Via: Telegraph

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