France: Google Browser Tracking Violates EU Law

Dennis Faas's picture

France's National Commission for Computing and Civil Liberties (CNIL) claims Google's new privacy policy violates European Union law. CNIL is an agency charged with protecting citizens' private information, and reporting to the European Commission.

Last January, Google announced its new privacy plan, scheduled to take effect this Thursday, March 1, 2012.

The plan claims to allow for more convenient tracking of its privacy initiatives across Gmail, Google Docs, and about 60 other online services, while clarifying those policies for its users.

Critics Say Advertising, Monetization Drives Privacy Plan

Because Google's new plan pools the information it collects about its users, privacy critics worry it's a ploy to relay better user information to third party advertisers for online marketing purposes.

Despite Google's recent assertions, CNIL says the new policy is too complicated and convoluted, with repercussions that are difficult for privacy experts to predict.

American Privacy Watchdogs Also Oppose Google's New Policy

In the U.S., the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), a public research group, is appealing a recent ruling dismissing its challenge to the policy.

Some critics, like MSNBC writer Suzanne Choney, advise Google users to wipe their search history prior to March 1, which will limit Google's tracking ability.

Since some users haven't wiped their histories for years, this strategy will deprive Google of lots of information about individuals' web browsing behavior. (Source:

Plan Criticized for Lack of Transparency

CNIL also says the new Google privacy plan may not be legal in Europe, and does not make browser tracking easier for the average user to understand.

"Rather than promoting transparency, the terms of the new policy and the fact that Google claims publicly that it will combine data across services raises fears about Google's actual practices," the CNIL said in an open letter to Google chief executive, Larry Page. (Source:

"Our preliminary investigation shows that it is extremely difficult to know exactly which data is combined between which services for which purposes, even for trained privacy professionals." (Source:

This puts the new policy in serious danger, at least in Europe.

Meanwhile, Google claims innocence. "We are confident that our new simple, clear and transparent privacy policy respects all European data protection laws and principles," said the company's chief privacy counsel, Peter Fleischer. (Source:

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