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European data authorities threaten to fine Google over privacy policy

French and Spanish data protection groups released statements Thursday threatening Google [corporate website] with fines if the company does not change its privacy policies on collecting user data. The Commission Nationale de l'Informatique et des Libertes (CNIL) [official website] an independent oversight authority set up by the French government has accused [text] Google of breaching the French Data Protection Act [text, PDF, in French]. The group has given Google three months to change its consolidated private policy, which applies to all European nations and combines individuals' data across the entire spectrum of Google owned websites and services, or face a fine of up to €150,000. Also Thursday, Spain's Data Protection Agency, The Agencia Espanola de Proteccion de Datos (AEPD) [official website, in Spanish], released a statement [text, PDF, in Spanish] accusing Google of committing five violations of the Spanish data protection law, a charge [Reuters report] that would bring fines of between between €40,000 €and 300,000. The CNIL has stated that the data protection authorities from Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and the UK are all investigating similar privacy actions against Google.

Google has faced criticism for numerous privacy issues recently. Earlier this month a judge in the US District Court for the Northern District of California [official website] ruled that Google must follow the FBI's [official website] warrantless requests for user information through national security letters (NSLs) [CRS backgrounder]. In April six European countries commenced legal action [JURIST report] against Google regarding its privacy policies. Also in April Google agreed to a $7 million settlement [JURIST report] for its collection of improper data during its Street View campaign. Last December an Italian appeals court overturned the conviction of three Google executives for violating Italian privacy laws [JURIST report] by posting a video on Google of a handicapped child being bullied. Last June a Swiss court ruled partially for Google [JURIST report] in a privacy suit involving its Street View service.

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