Google fined for privacy 'violations'

Spain's data protection watchdog ordered US Internet giant Google on Thursday to pay a 900,000-euro fine 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 email 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 ordered Google to pay 300,000 euros ($410,000) 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 emails 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 to comment to AFP 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 too 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 European Union warned Google in October 2012 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 standardise 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.

Like other technology giants, Google has come under heightened scrutiny in recent months following revelations by US whistleblower Edward Snowden of online eavesdropping by intelligence agencies.

The Spanish Data Protection Agency is a state body with power to impose fines and to order data to be destroyed, according to its website.

In 2010 it filed a suit against Google for allegedly capturing data from Internet users when it collected photos for its Street View map service.

Share your thoughts

Discussion 1 : 20/12/2013 at 09:15 AM
It's high time Google gets reigned in. Anybody can start a "blog" on Google seriously slandering others with blatant lies damaging their reputation. It has proven near impossible to have these blogs removed.

Back to top

More From Bangkokpost.com