The European Union’s “Article 29 Working Party,” an EU-wide privacy body, was upset with Google’s privacy within days of it being announced in January 2012. The eventually led to the French privacy regulatory body CNIL to ask, on behalf of the entire Article 29 body, for Google to make some changes, including:
- Tell users what data are being collected and how they’re being used
- Give users the ability to consent or opt-out of Google’s uses of combined personal/behavioral data
- Identify the data retention periods of the combined data and comply with European data retention standards
The group wanted an answer back on these recommendations and began speaking out last February about still not getting them. Today, it says that as Google has gone past the four month deadline it gave, it’s ready to get tough. From today’s announcement:
EU Data protection authorities asked Google to comply with their recommendations within 4 months.
After this period has expired, Google has not implemented any significant compliance measures.
On 19 March 2013, representatives of Google Inc. were invited at their request to meet with the taskforce led by the CNIL and composed of data protection authorities of France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, and the United-Kingdom. Following this meeting, no change has been seen.
The problem is that the EU itself can’t get tough. The watchdog group has no enforcement powers, as it has explained before. It can’t even declare whether Google is actually violating privacy laws.
Instead, individual EU countries have to independently investigate Google’s privacy policies and take action, if they see a concern. As the announcement explains:
It is now up to each national data protection authority to carry out further investigations according to the provisions of its national law transposing European legislation.
Those countries appear to be the aforementioned ones:
- The Netherlands
- The United Kingdom
According to Bloomberg, these countries will now coordinate on investigating whether they should each individually pursue actual actions and possible fines against Google.
I haven’t seen any recent news on the status into the EU examination of Microsoft’s privacy changes, which were similar to Google’s. The EU said in December that it would review those changes, about two months after Microsoft launched them.