Monday, October 15, 2012

European Union May Require Google To Change Its Privacy Policies

According to Reuters, the European Union has sent Google a letter demanding changes to Google's new privacy policy to better protect the personal data of its users.  The Guardian is reporting that Google may be told on Tuesday to revisit the controversial changes introduced in March.

On January 24, 2012, Google announced that as of March 1, 2012, it would revamp its privacy policies.  At the time of its announcement, Google stated that it had more than 70 privacy policies and that it is "rolling out a new main privacy policy that covers the majority of our products and explains what information we collect, and how we use it, in a much more readable way. While we’ve had to keep a handful of separate privacy notices for legal and other reasons, we’re consolidating more than 60 into our main Privacy Policy."  .... "Our new Privacy Policy makes clear that, if you’re signed in, we may combine information you've provided from one service with information from other services."

Streamlining almost 70 privacy policies into 1 policy is much easier for compliance and legal purposes since it means that Google will only have to keep abreast of 1 uniform policy instead of more than 60.  In other words, the change may decrease legal and compliance costs by millions of dollars per year.  The new Privacy Policy states that Google may combine all of its users' information into one profile that may enhance its data mining capabilities which may increase its advertising revenues by hundreds of millions of dollars per year.  Of Google's $37.9 billion in 2011 revenue, 96 percent came from advertising.

Before Google's new privacy policy went into effect, France's data protection authority, the CNIL, told Google in a letter dated February 27, 2012 that it would lead a Europe-wide investigation of the new policy.  Soon after Google implemented the changes there was an uproar about the matter.

Since Google refused to heed the EU's prior warnings that changing its privacy policies may violate data protection laws it would not surprise me if the CNIL harshly rebukes Google and "recommends" it change its privacy policies and is "asked" to better inform its users on how it utilizes their personal data.  However, until the decison is made public it would be premature to speculate how this may affect Google and its advertising clients. 

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Copyright 2012 by the Law Office of Bradley S. Shear, LLC All rights reserved.