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France Fines Google $204,000 for Violating Privacy Laws

France Fines Google $204,000 for Violating Privacy Laws

France is fining Google $204,000 for a 2012 decision to change the privacy policies of about 60 different Google properties and merge them into one, without giving users a way to opt out of the new policy.

According to Reuters, France alerted Google that their new privacy policy ran afoul of that country’s Data Protection Act and gave the corporation three months to comply by being more transparent about its practices. Google collects and saves vast amounts of user information, and, as it often does so through properties like YouTube and Gmail, collects much more than just web searches. When the privacy policies were merged, those using any of the services were not given a chance to look at the new policy, nor were they allowed to opt out.

Google did not comply with the ultimatum and was fined. France’s internet privacy oversight committee, the Commission Nationale de L’Informatique et des Libertes, attacked Google for “not sufficiently inform[ing] its users of the conditions in which their personal data are processed, nor of the purposes of this processing.” They also argued that there was “no legal basis” for the merger of privacy agreements, and that holding customers to a privacy agreement they did not sign was out of the bounds of the law.

Given that Google has implemented this policy change across all its platforms and throughout the world, other countries might also consider fining the company; Reuters lists Spain, Britain, Germany, Italy, and the Netherlands as the top contenders. There does not appear to be any European-wide infrastructure in which the countries could combine to punish Google for the violation, however, as European law does not address this violation specific to these countries.

A Google spokesperson told PCWorld that the company has “engaged fully with the CNIL throughout this process to explain our privacy policy and how it allows us to create simpler, more effective services.” It is unclear whether Google will change their privacy policy in Europe to conform to the privacy standards of those countries. This is not the first time that Google has found itself in the position of having to conform its policies developed in America to international local laws. In 2010, Google found itself in a troublesome position with the government of China over their web search results. After threatening to leave the country completely in the first place, Google finally satisfied the Chinese government that they would abide by local law.

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