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Google warned to update privacy policies by Information Commissioner’s Office

The Information Commissioner’s Office urged Google to change its privacy policies that it believes are in breach of the Data Protection Act in the UK.

Google has been given until September 20 to make changes to its privacy policies that the ICO say are in breach of the Data Protection Act because of its insufficient user information.

Following similar motions taken by the Spanish and French data protection watchdogs, the ICO’s action is in response to the radical changes made to Google’s small print last year.

The changes meant that Google was creating a single profile detailing users’ interests and activities from data collected from Google searches, YouTube, Gmail and dozens of other services owned and controlled by the search engine giant.

“We have today written to Google to confirm our finding relating to the update of the company’s privacy policy,” said an ICO spokesperson. “In our letter we confirm that its updated privacy policy raises serious questions about its compliance with the UK Data Protection Act.”

Many European regulators called for Google to put a stop to the changes before they came into force, but to no avail.

“In particular, we believe that the updated policy does not provide sufficient information to enable UK users of Google’s services to understand how their data will be used across all of the company’s products.”

The ICO’s legal powers mean it could fine Google up to £500,000 if it fails to change its privacy policies by September 20. However, seeing as Google’s revenues in the UK were already £920 miilion for the opening three months of 2013, it does seem like a drop in a rather large ocean for the search engine giant.

“Google must now amend their privacy policy to make it more informative for individual service users. Failure to take the necessary action to improve the policies compliance with the Data Protection Act by 20 September will leave the company open to the possibility of formal enforcement action.”

Google has always maintained its privacy policies comply with European data protection laws and has reiterated that fact in light of the recent actions taken against it.

Next, read the Google Glass privacy problem – and how to solve it.

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