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French regulators to sanction Google over alleged privacy violations

September 27, 2013|By Jessica Guynn
  • French regulators have begun formal proceedings to impose formal sanctions on Google for violating European privacy law. A man wearing Google Glass poses at Google's offices in Brussels.
French regulators have begun formal proceedings to impose formal sanctions… (Benoit Doppagne / AFP / Getty…)

SAN FRANCISCO -- French regulators have begun formal proceedings to impose sanctions on Google for violating European privacy law, which could lead to millions of euros in fines, one in a series of setbacks on the privacy front for the search giant.

France’s data protection agency, the Commission Nationale de l’Informatique et des Libertes, said in a statement Friday that Google had not complied with an order to change how it handles users’ data.

French regulators in June gave Google three months to make the changes to its privacy policies.

This is just one of the privacy probes that Google faces in Europe as a result of its decision last year to consolidate its privacy polices for its broad array of services.

Six European privacy regulators  -- in Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and the United Kingdom -- started similar investigations in April.

European regulators have complained that Google has not given users enough information about how their personal information was being used across its various services.

“On the last day of the three-month time period given to Google Inc., the company contested the reasoning followed by the CNIL, and notably the applicability of the French data protection law to the services used by residents in France,” CNIL said on its website. “Therefore, it has not implemented the requested changes. In this context, the Chair of the CNIL will now designate a rapporteur for the purpose of initiating a formal procedure for imposing sanctions, according to the provisions laid down in the French data protection law.”

Google insists its policies comply with European privacy regulations.

“Our privacy policy respects European law and allows us to create simpler, more effective services. We have engaged fully with the CNIL throughout this process, and we’ll continue to do so going forward,” the company said in an emailed statement on Friday.

This week a San Jose federal judge ruled that Google must face a lawsuit that accuses the tech giant of illegally opening and reading the contents of email sent through its Gmail service in violation of federal wiretapping statutes.

That comes on the heels of another ruling that went against Google.

A federal appeals court earlier this month refused to dismiss a civil lawsuit accusing Google of violating federal wiretapping laws when its fleet of Street View cars inadvertently swept up emails, passwords and other highly sensitive personal information from unencrypted wireless networks.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Google could be held liable for damages for intercepting the personal data from unsuspecting households while photographing streets for its popular street-mapping service.


Google faces more privacy probes, possible fines in Europe

Google can face wiretap claims in Street View suits, court says

Google must face suit over scanning of messages in Gmail, judge rules

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