UK gives Google three months to change privacy policies or face fines

Data watchdog claim that search giant's current policies raise 'serious questions' about compliance with UK law

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The Independent Tech

The UK and other European countries have ordered Google to changes its privacy policy before September 20 or face “the possibility of formal enforcement action” for violating the Data Protection Act.

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has said that the search giant’s current privacy policy “raises serious questions about its compliance with the UK Data Protection Act.”

The ICO’s formal complaint is the latest in a string of European-led objections to Google’s privacy policy, which received a significant overhaul in March 2012, allowing the company to aggregate data from its various services to create unified profiles on individuals.

Google announced the changes on a blog post, saying: “In short, we’ll treat you as a single user across all our products, which will mean a simpler, more intuitive Google experience.

Since then various privacy watchdogs have challenged Google over the effect of these changes. On June 20 this year, France’s data protection watchdog, the Commission Nationale de l’Informatique et des Libertés (CNIL) announced that the company had three months to rewrite its privacy policy or face fines.

In March this year, Google also paid $7m in fines after it admitted that its street view cars had been “snooping” on personal data via wi-fi in the US. Although similar violations had happened in the UK, Google escaped paying any fines here.

Nick Pickles, head of UK privacy campaign Big Brother Watch said: "British regulators barely managed to slap Google on the wrist for this, so yet again British consumers seem to be left with weaker protection of their privacy that other countries."

If Google fails to comply with these latest measures then the Commissioner has the power to levy a fine of up to £500,000 – though in order to do show it will have to give explicit examples of individuals being harmed by the policy.

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