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EC plans privacy action against Google before summer

EC plans privacy action against Google before summer

European data protection regulators growing restive about Google stonewalling

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European privacy authorities approved a plan to come up with measures to curb Google's collection, combination and storage of its users' personal information before the summer.

The data protection regulators have decided to continue their investigation into Google in close cooperation with each other and will take all actions necessary, the French National Commission on Computing and Liberty (CNIL) said in a news release on Thursday. The CNIL is the Data Protection Authority (DPA) leading the investigation.

"Significant progress on these actions will be made before summer," CNIL said in the news release. A taskforce led by CNIL will help to coordinate these actions.

"At the French level, the CNIL may pronounce different types of sanctions: warnings, injunctions, financial sanctions up to ¬300,000, orders to stop processing operations," said CNIL spokeswoman Marion Postic in an email.

"The chairman may also file a petition in court to order any necessary measure. He can, on behalf of the Commission, report breaches of the law to the prosecutor," she added.

The national data protection authorities of European Union countries, meeting as the Article 29 Working Party (A29WP), decided in a plenary meeting on Tuesday to agree with the proposal made by CNIL last week.

The European DPAs have grown impatient with Google's failure to respond to their criticism of its revised privacy policy, which was introduced on March 1, 2012, despite requests for a delay from A29WP members. Those members wanted more time to complete their examination of the policy changes Google proposed.

When Google introduced the new policy, the CNIL was asked by the A29WP to conduct a full investigation. Google exchanged several letters with CNIL and in October 2012, the A29WP highlighted deficiencies in Google's privacy policy and gave some recommendations on how to address these.

Google should, for example, stop combining information from different sources when it is not legally justified, provide users with more information about its policies and guarantee to delete personal data after set periods. To date, considering that Google has not taken any precise measures in response to those recommendations, the requirements are still not complied with, CNIL said.

The taskforce that will deal with the issue will meet in the coming weeks and Google will be invited for a hearing, CNIL said.

A Google spokesman said, via email: "Our privacy policy respects European law and allows us to create simpler, more effective services. We have engaged fully with the CNIL throughout this process, and we'll continue to do so going forward."

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