EU watchdogs slam Google on privacy policies

EUROPEAN regulators hit out at Google yesterday, criticising the web giant for changes to the way it hoards users’ personal data and demanding greater transparency over its privacy policy.

A joint letter from the information commissioners of 27 countries, following an investigation by French data regulators CNIL, said that Google had ignored its “key data protection principles” in changing its privacy policy. Earlier in the year, Google started to combine information about individuals between the dozens of services it runs, including YouTube, Gmail and search, in order to target adverts more effectively.

Google claimed the new system made its policies easier to understand, but the regulators said it had not made the changes clear.

“The investigation showed that Google provides insufficient information to its users, especially on the purposes and the categories of data being processed,” the letter read. The regulators – including UK information commissioner Christopher Graham – are now calling for Google to allow users to opt out of having their data collected, as well as to make it explicitly clear how it collects and uses their data.

The company could face heavy fines from each of the national regulators if it is not seen to change its policies to comply with recommendations. The move will come as a big blow to Google, which relies on targeting adverts effectively.

Google’s global privacy counsel Peter Fleischer rejected the claims,, saying: “We are confident that our privacy notices respect European law.”