Google in Privacy Trouble with UK, French Officials

Dennis Faas's picture

Google is currently getting grilled by French officials over the way it handles customer privacy.

At the same time, the search giant is also facing stern criticism from British politicians regarding the way it deals with complaints involving illegal websites.

The French authority that governs data handling in the country, the Commission nationale de l'informatique et des libertes, (CNIL) has even slapped the company with a deadline of April 6, by which it must answer to the Commission.

The CNIL is currently leading a Europe-wide probe into Google's recent changes to its privacy policies.

French Upset Over Google Privacy Policy Allowing Information Pooling

In addition to recently combining its policies for nearly all its services into a single document, Google has also changed the way it deals with the records of individual users.

Under the newly unified privacy policy, Google is now pooling everything a particular person does via Google services (including YouTube) into a single data file.

Experts say this comprehensive data file could increase the likelihood that activity on one site will influence the advertising a person sees on another site. Google simply says this will primarily mean more relevant ads.

CNIL has put together a list of 69 questions for Google to answer, relating to both the logistics of the change and whether it has the legal authority to do so.

It appears the French officials are particularly concerned about how the rules affect users of Android smartphones, who have little or no practical way to opt out of Google's updated policies. (Source:

UK Officials Want Answers To Privacy, Security Questions

Across the English Channel, a committee of British Members of Parliament are expected to release a report next week detailing an investigation of their country's rules on court injunctions related to privacy issues.

As part of its investigation, the committee looked at whether Google should be forced to take down or block links to sites that host material breaching British privacy laws.

However, by the time a compromising photograph of a public figure has been banned from publication by a British court, it has already been captured and reproduced by numerous other sites around the world.

As a result, there's some legal argument about how British law affects Google in such circumstances. Should the company be forced to block access to such sites worldwide, or only block access for British users?

Another point of debate involves the suggestion that Google should actively hunt down material that breaks British privacy laws, while others contend the company can simply sit back and wait for reports compiled by others on such material.

Leaks from inside the committee suggest politicians will argue Google hasn't done enough to comply with the law. However, Google contends it's not possible for the company to find all copies of controversial material once it has spread on the web. (Source:

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