Data watchdogs threaten Google with privacy fine

GOOGLE clashed with European regulators over its privacy policies yesterday, with at least six national data watchdogs threatening to fine the internet giant.

A host of authorities, led by the French privacy watchdog CNIL, have been investigating Google since it merged its 60 data policies into one last year. The move allowed Google to target adverts more effectively by sharing personal data between its services such as YouTube, Gmail and Maps, but regulators raised concerns that it would place users at risk.

The data authorities of EU states including the UK, Germany, France, Italy, Spain and the Netherlands have requested that Google tells users how it is using that information, but yesterday they said it had failed to provide adequate responses to its concerns.

They said that they have given Google three months to respond to the concerns, and will fine the firm if they fail to address their worries. At present, each watchdog could only order Google to pay a penalty of hundreds of thousands of euros, but new regulations coming into force later in the year could see it fined up to two per cent of its global turnover – or up to $1bn (£646m).

A spokesperson for Google claimed that its policies were compatible with current privacy laws. “Our privacy policy respects European law and allows us to create simpler, more effective services. We have engaged fully with the authorities involved throughout this process, and we’ll continue to do so going forward,” the firm said.

Google and European regulators have clashed several times over the last month. The company is fighting an ongoing battle with the European Commission over accusations it has abused its dominance of search to promote its rival services, and is facing a separate probe over alleged anti-competitive measures related to its Android mobile software.