EU Presses Google On Privacy

Google's decision last year to revise its privacy policy still isn't sitting well with EU regulators.

This week, the French agency CNIL criticized Google for failing to adequately respond to criticism of its new policy. The regulators said they intend to move forward with their complaints.

The EU's complaints about Google's privacy policy date to March, when the company  began combining information about signed-in users across a variety of platforms and services -- including Gmail, Android, and YouTube. People can't opt out of the data combination. Instead, if they don't want Google to use data to create detailed profiles of them, they must access sites without signing in, or use different browsers for different purposes.

Google says that it wants to use the data in order to target people more precisely. The company also points out that the new policy doesn't allow it to collect any new data, only to draw on it in new ways.



But regulators in Europe -- which has broader privacy laws than the U.S. -- have concerns about Google's practices. In October, they demanded that Google clarify how it combines data. The regulators also told Google to "develop new tools to give users more control over their personal data."

If nothing else, the dispute highlights the contrast between privacy laws in Europe and the U.S., where Google's new policy didn't face challenge from the Federal Trade Commission.

While some Web users filed a potential class-action lawsuit against Google for changing its policy, the case doesn't appear to be going anywhere. In December, U.S. Magistrate Judge Paul Grewal in San Jose, Calif. dismissed the lawsuit without prejudice. He wrote in his ruling that the users "raised serious questions regarding Google’s respect for consumers’ privacy," but said they couldn't proceed unless they could allege some sort of injury. The users have until the end of this month to beef up their allegations and try again, but it seems unlikely that they'll be able to allege the type of economic harm that would get them their day in court.

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