Google faces forced privacy backtrack after Euro scolding

Oct 15, 2012
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Google faces the challenge of dismantling its unified user accounts, which among other things helps bake its Google+ social network into most aspects of search, under pressure from French regulators. The huge endeavor, backtracking on its integrated privacy policy, will be forced by the French CNIL data protection commissioner, The Guardian reports, with an announcement by the organization expected on Tuesday this week.

Google's downfall, it's suggested, is not giving its European users the opportunity to opt-out of the privacy policy changes made back in March. Then, the search giant said that it was doing users a favor by scything away 60 or more individual privacy policies and replacing them with a single, unified agreement that it claimed was easier both to read and, critically, understand.

Unfortunately, regulators didn't see the changes in the same, positive way, with particular horror at the new data-sharing provisions that allowed information from different Google products to be mashed together. That, Google argued, not only opened the door to useful features for users - such as using location, calendar and traffic data to warn them it they were likely to be late to an appointment - but was not significantly different from what was permitted under the old agreements.

French privacy advocates demanded Google delay the changes while it looked into their legality, but Google denied the request, insisting that there had been no "substantial concerns" raised when it initially mentioned the amended policy approach to lawmakers. That refusal could come back to haunt the company, however, with policy experts suggesting that the selection of the CNIL to head up the data protection inquiry was a deliberate one based on the French commission's aggressive approach.

Google has declined to comment specifically on the CNIL press conference, saying only that "we are confident that our privacy notices respect the requirements of European data protection laws." However, the search company is likely to complain far more vocally if forced to reverse its privacy modifications and put back in place the old system.


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