EU Gets Tough: Gives Google Two Weeks To Explain Data Practices

A French data privacy watchdog is raising alarms about Google’s data collection practices and has given the Internet search giant a little over two weeks to explain the way it handles the information of its users. 

A French data privacy watchdog is raising alarms about Google’s data collection practices and has given the Internet search giant a little over two weeks to explain the way it handles the information of its users. 

The Commission Nationale de l’Informatique (CNIL) sent a letter (.PDF) late last week to Google’s CEO Larry Page complete with 69 questions it hopes will clarify the search giant’s data practices. The letter, penned by CNIL’s President Isabelle Falque-Pierrotin, gives Google an April 5 deadline to address whether or not the company will track users via their smart phones or collect information stored on phones like address books, among other questions.

CNIL, along with the EU’s 27 states, led the opposition against Google in the weeks up to their recent policy changes on March 1. 

Google announced plans to consolidate 60 separate privacy policies into one that would treat each user as a single entity across its many platforms, including YouTube, Gmail and Google+. The changes were widely criticized by privacy advocates worldwide. Skeptical that the company’s approach conforms to Europe’s law, the EU called for the delay of Google’s policy changes in early February. But Google went ahead and launched their changes despite public outcry from officials in the US, Japan and Europe

The EU has been busy since trying to aggressively assert itself on the privacy front. EU regulators announced they would be looking into whether or not Google evaded privacy controls in Apple’s Safari browser. Google claimed they removed the controls in February, yet the EU, along with agencies from the U.S. are pressing on with their investigation. Then, on Monday, EU Vice President Viviane Reding encouraged the U.S. to follow Europe’s lead when it comes to privacy. Speaking at the High Level Conference on Privacy and Protection of Personal Data – an official exchange between Brussels and Washington this week – Reding stressed the lack of “single, over-arching privacy legislation,” in the U.S. and said it was up to Washington to catch up to Europe. 

The speech followed a joint statement issued by the EU’s Reding and U.S. Commerce Secretary John Bryson that sounded as if the two departments would be working in tandem going forward, and Reding cited the recent “privacy bill of rights” blueprint issued by the White House as “a first step.”

“Both parties are committed to working together and with other international partners to create mutual recognition frameworks that protect privacy,” reads one part of the statement.

But Reding was clear that, in her view, the EU was out in front on privacy, with the Vice President praising its tougher privacy regulations.

“In Europe the European Parliament has the final say on all international agreements that involve data sharing and concern the protection of European citizens’ personal data,” Reding said.

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