Sat, Dec 21, 2013 - Page 15 News List

Spain penalizes Google over privacy breach

INVESTIGATIONS:The US firm also faces charges of illegal processing of personal data in the Netherlands, Germany, Italy, the UK and France


Spain’s data protection watchdog ordered US Internet giant Google on Thursday to pay a fine of 900,000 euros (US$1.22 million) for “serious violations” of users’ privacy.

The Spanish Data Protection Agency accused the popular search provider of “illegal processing of personal data” obtained from users of various services, such as Google e-mail accounts.

Google’s privacy policy enables it to track the activity of users across its search engine, Gmail, the Google+ social networking platform and other services it owns, which include YouTube.

“Google unlawfully collects and processes personal information” of users, the Spanish agency said in a statement.

“The agency considers that Google seriously violates the right to the protection of personal data,” it said.

It ordered Google to pay 300,000 euros for each of three breaches of Spain’s data protection law and ordered it to bring its privacy policy in line with legal norms.

The agency said Google’s privacy policy did not clearly inform users of how it uses the data collected, for example information from e-mail that is gathered to generate targeted advertising.

It also accused Google of keeping the data for longer than is legally justified and of making it difficult for users to query the use of their data.

Google has repeatedly stated that its privacy policy respects European law, despite investigations in several countries.

Google spokespeople could not immediately be reached for comment on Thursday, but El Pais newspaper quoted the company as saying it had been “totally involved” in the agency’s investigations.

It would “read the report carefully and then decide what steps to take next,” the newspaper quoted Google as saying.

The Spanish authority launched proceedings against Google in June. In September, France also said it would take action against the company, accusing it of breaching privacy norms.

Authorities in Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Britain have also opened parallel procedures against Google.

The Spanish agency said it was the first of these six authorities to make a final decision on action against the US giant.

The EU warned Google in October last year that its new data protection procedures did not comply with an EU directive on the subject and gave the company four months to change them.

That deadline passed without any action, prompting France to set up the task force of individual member states pursuing the issue with Google.

Google has defended the changes it made last year, saying they simplify and standardize its approach across its various services.

Critics say the policy gives the operator of the world’s largest search engine unprecedented ability to monitor its users.

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