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back to article Google misses privacy-policy deadline, incurs EU wrath

Google has been told by a group of EU regulators that it faces "a coordinated repressive action" before this summer, due to the fact that the online search advertising giant has ignored their order to make changes to and provide information about its privacy policies. Last January, Google unified 60 of its products' individual …

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"informing it that it had to provide users with an opt-out option for each of its products"

I would imagine that this will directly interfere with Google's current 'you use it even if you don't...use it...' social marketing strategy.

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"the EU regulators will now continue their investigation and convene a working group in order to coordinate their repressive action which should take place before summer."

Summer 6049.... Can't rush these things

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@Thorne

on the other hand, we could wait until EU auditors sign off their accounts before allowing them to make any new rules or impose anything whatsoever.

That'll be 26409.

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Go

Now we come to it

What's "repressive action"?

Are the collective goverments of the EU going to cut off public access to Google, YouTube, ReCaptcha and half the internet which Google controls? Can't wait to see the shitstorm that's going to result from that. Or are they just going to fine Google huge amounts of money, utlimately leading Google itself to cut off European public access to its own sites (resulting in the same shitstorm).

Either way, Google wins. Because so many people are so dependent on its services that it's become indispensable. But if Google wins, that means it can thumb its nose at laws and governments alike, and that is not a good thing. Forced nationalisation, anyone?

So may we live in interesting times. I'll have a large bucket of hot buttered and a Coke, please. This is going to be good!

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Coat

Re: Now we come to it

Quoting one "great" European politician who once upon a time personally ordered my great granddad shot as an enemy of the state: "There is no such thing as indispensable people". Or in this case it will read as: "There is no such thing as indispensable companies".

Out of all people, I would have expected Mr Brin to have remembered that one. Me coat.

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Re: Now we come to it

Google wins. Because so many people are so dependent on its services that it's become indispensable

You're probably younger than me. I remember Microsoft thinking the same thing (and trying it). Didn't work out so well.

The EU isn't asking for anything more than compliance with clearly stated and articulated laws, laws that Google is well aware of (and they have plenty of lawyers to help them with that). There is thus really no excuse whatsoever. What Google missed was that sending a letter without a deadline was a test in itself. If Google had any desire to comply (which, given Schmidt's utterances in the press seemed unlikely anyway) it would have already answered with questions, a plan for remedial action, negotiations - anything that would indicate they took this seriously. The only hint that Google was getting worried was the sharply increased lobbying of late, which demonstrated (a) they were not intending to go even close to compliance and (b) their top management really, really has no clue how different the EU is to the US..

I suspect the Art 29 working group is not inclined to play nice.

I suggest you go and get popcorn, this will be interesting to watch.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Now we come to it - indispensable people

the actual quote was slightly different: "cemeteries are full of indispensable people"

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FAIL

Re: Now we come to it

Maybe googles response got lost in in their email inbox, with all the advertising spam they spew on every piece of software they make, in every webpage they open, and with every service they provide.

"Ummm it was here somewhere???"

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Re: Now we come to it

"I suggest you go and get popcorn, this will be interesting to watch."

Agreed. Which was why I asked for a large bucket of hot buttered and a Coke. I'm looking forward to seeing the fallout from this!

BTW I'm 46. Is that younger than you? You never know on these forums. ;)

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Mushroom

Sieg Heil, Mein Sad Little Napoleans says Herr Schmidt

Google to EU ...... "How do I tell thee to fcuk off nicely into the night, let me count the ways"

If ever there was a sign of desperation needed by the markets to confirm that there is no coherent and viable leadership in the European Project for the 21st Century, is that negligent discharge of a shot, it.

And as for what can be done in CyberSpace and the Internet with Virtual Reality Bombes to Impact on the Fragile Realities spun out by Media on Earth for the Subjugation and Delight of the Ignorant and Arrogant Masses, well ...... that is an Obviously Empty EU Store of Knowledge and Intelligence, as proven by the call to coordinate a repressive action.

What a pathetic load of politically inept and super-intellectually bankrupt plonkers.

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Re: Sieg Heil, Mein Sad Little Napoleans says Herr Schmidt

I've finally figured it out. You're Kevin Kelly, aren't you?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Sieg Heil, Mein Sad Little Napoleans says Herr Schmidt

Google are just pissed off because lobbying the EU doesn't work like it does in the US.

This is about a company complying with local laws, unlike the US they can't change the laws to suit them. It is in the interests of the EU and other countries to represent the consumer not big business like they usually do. So the fact they are defending us should be commended.

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Re: Sieg Heil, Mein Sad Little Napoleans says Herr Schmidt

@amanfromMars

That was actually comprehensible, and even garnered replies, well done :)

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Re: Sieg Heil, Mein Sad Little Napoleans says Herr Schmidt

the fact they are defending us should be commended

I fear that little detail may drown in the noise Google fans will make. Personally, I don't quite understand Google. I can't reasonably believe they are so arrogant to think they can bend the rules, in the end they will be made to comply. Surely it would have been more efficient (and less costly in money and reputation terms) to find a way to make this happen without too much loss of face? Now they are guaranteed to get hit with a massive fine because it will be politically unacceptable to let them off in the same way as the FTC did.

Not good.

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Laws?

If Google's breaking the law, where is it. Point them to the exact wording, let them fix/work around it, AND hold other companies to the same standard. Otherwise this just looks like a huge shakedown.

Can you implement a law in the EU that's only applicable to one company? No? then show us the law. List exactly how Google are breaking it. Otherwise this is simply corruption.

I'm sure there's other companies cheering them on, offering support, who'll run into huge problems themselves if such laws are implemented. Needing user confirmation on using the search engine, the mapping, the email, the printing (these services can cost money), the... everything.

Funnily enough, Google's method, obvious on why it's the way it is, really is the simplest way to manage this, and thus most likely for a user to tweak. Having different options all over the place is only going to make things worse.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Laws?

If Google's breaking the law, where is it. Point them to the exact wording, let them fix/work around it, AND hold other companies to the same standard. Otherwise this just looks like a huge shakedown.

The letter was detailed enough, and it isn't up to the regulator to help Google with compliance, it is up to Google to comply with clearly published and documented laws. You suggestion that others are not held to the same standard is interesting - name one? Facebook is also in the firing line, but here the EU has to wait until they are certain the Irish regulator isn't doing his job (which, IMHO, he isn't) as local enforcement takes precedent.

Interestingly, I suspect Facebook may actually fare better, they are at least responding - the problem there is that they have been misled by someone angling for a new job at Apple that all is well, which may take some undoing. Facebook hasn't really displayed the arrogance that Google has in public, which I have always found quite interesting.

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Re: Laws?

That would be because Facebook relies on the users data and exists in a market where it's never been the only 300lb gorilla. If the users get turned over badly enough they will just leave to the next big social network. OTOH Google feels that because it offers the "best" product in the areas that operates in, means that people won't just jump ship if they feel that problems are occurring.

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Re: Laws? - Jyve

"Can you implement a law in the EU that's only applicable to one company?" Actually, yes: the EU has a type of legislation available to it that can indeed be applicable to only one company (or person, or group of people/companies). The Hierarchy of EU legislation is:

Regulation - binding on everyone in the EU with no need to be specifically implemented by national governments;

Directive - requires specific implementation to be brought in by national governments;

Decision (and this is bit I'm referring to) - binding on whoever it is addressed to with no need for national implementation (see http://ec.europa.eu/legislation/index_en.htm).

So yes, Google could find itself on the end of a Decision addressed only to it, with all sorts of conditions in it, and their only recourse would be the Court of Justice of the EU, which is fairly slow to find actions of the EC to be illegal.

As someone else has said - get plenty of popcorn and fizzy beverage of your choice in and make yourself comfortable: this is going to be interesting!

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Facepalm

Disappointed

I would have thought that Google would pay more attention to their complaints, instead of apparently not answering. It does not even seem that prohibitive to do as they asked, if they really only asked for opt-out (which in the overwhelming majority users will not do).

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Anonymous Coward

What else do you expect from a bunch of arrogant nerd asshats.

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Anonymous Coward

It explains why their offices are like playschool buildings. They're run by big kids.

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Coat

It was a request...

The letter laid out changes the regulators would like to see made....the letter didn't say you are breaking the law and you need to do these things or we'll see you in court.

So for all those of you that think Google should immediately implement these changes I respectfully request that you divert your salary payments into my bank account for the period of 1 year or...or....I'll convene a meeting where I'll get some people to talk about you. Ner!

And you wonder why Google ignored it?

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Re: It was a request...

The letter laid out changes the regulators would like to see made....the letter didn't say you are breaking the law and you need to do these things or we'll see you in court.

Nope. It stated in fairly clear language that their privacy policy was not acceptable under EU law.

For example:

European Data Protection legislation provides a precise framework for personal data processing operations. Google must have a legal basis to perform the combination of data of each of these purposes and data collection must also remain proportionate to the purposes pursued. However, for some of these purposes including advertising, the processing does not rely on consent, on Google's legitimate interests, nor on the performance of a contract.

Google should therefore modify its practices when combining data across services for these purposes, including:

- reinforce users' consent to the combination of data for the purposes of service improvements, development of new services, advertising and analytics. This could be realized by giving users the opportunity to choose when their data are combined, for instance with dedicated buttons in the services' (cf. button “Search Plus Your World”),

- offer an improved control over the combination of data by simplifying and centralizing the right to object (opt-out) and by allowing users to choose for which service their data are combined

adapt the tools used by Google for the combination of data so that it remains limited to the authorized purposes, e.g. by differentiating the tools used for security and those used for advertising.

To me, those are fairly clear statements. It is not up to the EU to tell Google what exactly to do, Google has enough money to pay for advice. It merely has to tell them they are breaking the law and should correct this. They don't need to mention consequences either, because they are (very kindly, IMHO) first giving Google an opportunity to do this voluntarily, and Google could at least engaged in discussion about it. Instead, they ignored this which is probably the worst option to take as it displays both arrogance and a lack of desire to comply. That all of a sudden the place was awash with people lobbying will not have escaped the attention of the regulators either, and it will have made matters considerably worse for Google.

As I said before, get popcorn. This will be an interesting one to watch, but it's not going to be pretty.

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Re: It was a request...

when a regulator writes to you saying it thinks you should do things, you read what they say and you respond.

If they mention deadlines, then by that point you should have done something or gotten them to withdraw the request, or had an extension arranged.

Because up to that point, the regulator has been playing nicely. They've pointed out where they think you are not complying. And may have suggested how to fix it.

After that, if they are not convinced you are trying to do something then they may start with legal proceedings. And given the prospect of fines and legal costs, investors may start to get doubts about next years profit forecasts.

At least they are not a licensing authority, get things wrong with them and you may find yourself unable to do business at all.

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Anonymous Coward

Google's mantra - act first, lawyer up later

They did this with unauthorised scanning of copyrighted books for Google Books, did this with your personal data for Google Search, again with private property for Google Street View - they simply don't care about anyones rights or privacy. In their mind, all data and images are free for them to consume and make money from.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Google's mantra - act first, lawyer up later

<schmidt>It's called capitalism init?</schmidt>

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Anonymous Coward

Hmm, interesting...

why did CNIL ignore Microsoft when they unified all their privacy policies.... I think we all know the answer...

http://marketingland.com/microsoft-privacy-change-google-attacked-23598

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(Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

Re: Hmm, interesting...

FWIW, regarding that Marketing Land article accusing outlets of ignoring Microsoft's policy changes, we've reported on Microsoft's privacy updates over recent months.

C.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Hmm, interesting...

Regardless of El-Reg's reporting, what that article highlights is the general internet mismatch in reporting.

Both companies changed their privacy policies for the very same reason - to allow all their services to share data between each other.

However for every 1000 people that know about Google's highly publicised changes, how many people know about Microsoft doing the same thing? 1 person??? and that's being generous.

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(Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

Re: Re: Hmm, interesting...

Fair play.

C.

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Anonymous Coward

@Fred Flintstone

"This will be an interesting one to watch, but it's not going to be pretty."

It certainly won't be pretty: on the one side you have unelected, overbearing and over-reaching bureaucrats, on the other side you have unelected, over-reaching and overly-successful (in the eyes of certain EU politicians, to say the least) enterprise. At the same time as Google is being frequently attacked by same politicians for not paying "it's fair share" (which seems to mean whatever the speaker in question wants it to mean), they've just handed it a blank cheque for tax-deductible legal expenses.

Then again, today we have the UK Public Accounts Committee calling for the "naming and shaming" of avoiders by HMRC and not mentioning that it's own hypocritical chair, Labour MP Margaret Hodge, has stashed her millions in trusts to avoid tax.

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on the one side you have unelected, overbearing and over-reaching bureaucrats

Unelected? You may have missed that the original warning was only *organised* by the Article 29 Working Party, but the French CNIL as well as the other 26 signees are all formally appointed Data Protection regulators in their respective countries. That alone should have been a hint for Google this issue was a *heck* of a lot bigger than just one party they could buy/cajole/lobby out of the way.

It's a fair point that this may be a method to *tax* Google, but Google has only itself to thank for leaving itself open to this - the fact remains that they are in breach of EU law, and in my opinion they have been very well aware of that for quite some time (which makes it a wilful breach instead of "oops", not that anyone would have believed the latter after the Streetview affair).

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Anonymous Coward

yes, unelected. What percentage of UK, Dutch or Finnish citizens voted for the politicians that supervise CNIL ? Or was asked if they approved of CNIL "organising" something on their behalf?

It's a very effective method for Google not to pay tax. They just appoint a "specialist data privacy consultancy" in the Caymans, pay it a few billion euros in fees, and oh, look, Google France is now a loss-making entity. CNIL takes the lead, Google France leads Google's response, so that's where the money leaks out from.

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What percentage of UK, Dutch or Finnish citizens voted for the politicians that supervise CNIL ? Or was asked if they approved of CNIL "organising" something on their behalf?

It is a working group of appointed people, if you look at the actual letter you can see their names underneath it (and you can also see who joined that group of 27 a bit late :) ). This is not something the French did on their own, it is a collective decision. The French merely take point in this so it would not be a game of isolated lawsuits that could be played against each other. It strikes me that those EU people have learned a number of lessons from the games that Microsoft played, including giving Google enough rope to hang themselves.

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Have to wonder if Google believe the US government will ride to the rescue, just like their recent threats over 'right to be forgotten' EU proposals. It wouldn't be the 1st time a US company thought that way and I can't think of any other reason Google would believe they can win on this.

Google normally seem happy to let courts decide things like this, ignoring the politicians and lobbying (often less than honest, from competitors) but I cant believe they found legal advice that this case is winnable in a court.

Time for a bulk buy of popping corn, it's going to be most interesting watching how other US data miners react. For a change they might resist taking cheap shots and lobbying against Google.

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Anonymous Coward

the US government will ride to the rescue

That requires them to stay friendly with the US government, and I suspect that Schmidt's trip to North Korea has not exactly been helpful there..

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Pirate

"They just appoint a "specialist data privacy consultancy" in the Caymans, pay it a few billion euros in fees"

...and when the tax authorities come back and declare that the cash payments are above the market rates for those services and are deliberately so, it could quite easily become tax evasion rather than tax avoidance.

Even Al Capone couldn't get out of a tax evasion charge!

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Anonymous Coward

I would hope for the EU to kick Google

gently in the balls, but this would be clearly against several EU directives so no, I don't have ANY hope. It won't even be interesting to see what they pretend to be doing about this non-compliance.

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Coat

Help! Help!

I'm being repressed!

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Meh

"coordinated repressive action"

Would I be correct in assuming that coordination is unlikely to include the generally inactive & uncoordinated muppets at the UK's ICO?

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