France To Fine Google On Privacy, Low UK Taxes Draw Ire

google-eu-200pxGoogle’s European woes continue. The outcome of the antitrust settlement negotiations is still uncertain and it’s not clear that Google will “get off” without more concessions. Now, European privacy complaints against Google have come to a head, with France all but promising to fine the company.

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that France’s privacy regulator, the Commission Nationale de l’Informatique et des Libertés (CNIL), told media on Friday that Google had blown a deadline to change the way it handles user data. According to the report a quasi-judicial process will now begin that is almost certain to result in fines absent Google’s compliance with CNIL’s request for privacy policy changes.

In this context CNIL is a stand-in for a broader coalition of European privacy regulators that are likely to follow France’s lead.

Google is unlikely to comply with the CNIL order to change its privacy policy. The company maintains that its privacy policy is legal and in compliance with European regulations. In addition the collection of data across Google properties and devices is partly what has enabled the new, more sophisticated “Hummingbird” search algorithm.

In contrast to the WSJ report, the Associated Press said that a fine has already been determined by CNIL. That fine will apparently be $400,000 (roughly 296,000 EUR). It’s unclear which report is accurate regarding the fine.

The WSJ said that CNIL was “considering whether it would be legally possible to count every Google user in France as an infraction—allowing it to multiply France’s data-protection fines beyond the current maximum of €150,000 ($203,000) for first offenses.” The agency recognizes that a fine of even several million euros is trivial to Google and might be seen simply as the “cost of doing business” in Europe.

However if regulators across Europe follow France and impose similar fines the amount Google might be compelled to pay could be substantial.

Separately in the UK, Google filed financial documents that reportedly show Google paid limited UK taxes of just under £12 million ($19 million) on revenues of £506m ($817 million) in 2012. This will undoubtedly reignite debate about Google paying its “fair share” in Britain. Google has repeatedly been criticized in the British House of Commons for channeling revenue through its Irish subsidiary where corporate taxation is lower.

Google maintains everything it is doing is legal and that it contributes significantly to the UK economy.

Related Topics: Channel: Industry | Google: Business Issues | Google: Critics | Google: Legal | Legal | Legal: General | Legal: Privacy


About The Author: is a Contributing Editor at Search Engine Land. He writes a personal blog Screenwerk, about SoLoMo issues and connecting the dots between online and offline. He also posts at Internet2Go, which is focused on the mobile Internet. Follow him @gsterling.

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