European watchdogs order Google to rewrite privacy policy or face legal action

by Charles Arthur, Guardian UK  |  published on July 5, 2013

Privacy watchdogs in the UK, Germany and Italy have told Google to rewrite its privacy policy in Europe or face legal sanctions, 15 months after the search giant unilaterally altered them to unify data collection.

The move follows similar complaints to the US company last month from the equivalent organisations in France and Spain, and ratchets up the attention over its handling of the huge amounts of personal data that it collects from users every day.

Google has already been censured in Europe over its collection of Wi-Fi data, including usernames, passwords and web page viewing while collecting photos for its Street View system. Both European privacy authorities and US legislators have demanded clarification from the company about the data protection implications of its Google Glass head-mounted system, which can take pictures and video without onlookers knowing. It has also been implicated in a data-sharing row over the NSA’s Prism program, which has collected information from a number of US companies including Google, Microsoft and Apple.

Now the Information Commissioner’s Office in the UK says that the new privacy policy, introduced in March 2012, raises “serious questions” about compliance with the UK Data Protection Act, and has given Google until 20 September to recast it.

Meanwhile, the head of the powerful equivalent in Hamburg, Professor Johannes Caspar, announced that he will call Google into a legal hearing because the new policy “violates the company’s commitment to full transparency about the use and handling of the data”.

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