Google In Hot Water Again Over Privacy Issues

By CIOinsight  |  Posted 05-25-2012 Print Email
This time, it's French regulators who are saying that the search giant is being uncooperative with investigators probing the company's new privacy policies.

Google officials once again are being accused by regulators of not being cooperative with investigators looking into privacy issues concerning the dominant Web 2.0 company.

This time, the complaints are coming from Europe Union (EU), where a French agency taking the lead in the investigation over questions about Google's new privacy policy is saying that the search giant gave incomplete and approximate answers to a questionnaire sent to it in March.

In a statement released May 23, France's CNIL (Commission Nationale de l'Informatique et des Libert s) said it had sent Google a questionnaire about the new privacy policy in March, and that the company sent back its answers in April.

"The CNIL welcomes Google's collaboration but regrets that the answers are often incomplete or approximate," the organization said.

The CNIL sent another questionnaire to Google May 22 in hopes of clarifying some questions, and met with Google representatives May 23. It has given Google until June 8 to answer the new questions.

European regulators are concerned about the privacy policy changes that Google announced in January and put into effect March 1. Essentially, Google did away with privacy rules for individual products like search, YouTube and Google Maps, and instead put in an umbrella policy that covered all 60 or so Google Web services. At the same time, Google also moved to bring in user information from all the services, creating large single-user profiles.

Google officials said the move would improve the quality of service. Critics disagreed, saying it was the latest step by Google to create better digital profiles of users in hopes of boosting its online ad business.

The European Union had asked Google to delay implementing the new policy until the questions raised by the CNIL had been answered. Google officials declined, stating that they were confident the policy adequately protected the privacy and rights of European citizens.

In a statement March 1, EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding said that it was "unfortunate that Google has gone ahead with the new policy before addressing the French data protection authority's concerns. All companies that offer services to European consumers must provide their customers with clear information about their privacy policy. In Europe, consumers must be able to make informed decisions about using Internet-based services."

Now the CNIL is pushing Google executives to be more forthcoming in their answers. Given the current information, the CNIL considers it impossible to know Google's processing of personal data, as well as the links between collected data, purposes and recipients, and that the obligation of information of the data subjects is not respected. The CNIL also notes that Google has not provided a maximum retention period for the data.



 

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