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French Officials Say EU Will Sanction Google Over Privacy 161

Posted by samzenpus
from the pay-up dept.
taz346 writes "French officials said on Monday that the EU intends to sanction Google after the Internet search giant failed to respond to concerns about its privacy policy. 'At the end of a four-month delay accorded to Google to comply with the European data protection directive and to implement effectively (our) recommendations, no answer has been given,' said France's CNIL data protection agency. Google's new policy, implemented in March 2012, allows it to track users over multiple sites. Users who sign in to Google services cannot opt out. CNIL said a working group would meet next week to begin work on 'coercive actions which should be implemented before the summer' against Google."
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French Officials Say EU Will Sanction Google Over Privacy

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 18, 2013 @05:50PM (#42939167)

    Trying to protect its citizens' privacy!

    • by node 3 (115640)

      Your sarcasm was way too subtle. I suspect there are more than a few here that would agree with your statement without irony.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Eat it up, Fandroids. They're stealing your data for their profits!!!

    • by Qwavel (733416) on Monday February 18, 2013 @06:21PM (#42939371)

      Sadly, that is the level of discourse common amongst fanbois of any camp. (I refer to the post I'm replying to.)

      The summary isn't much better: the article accurately says that Google wants to consolidate user data across Google's "services", into "track users over multiple sites" which is quite different and not relevant to this issue.

      Personally, I get annoyed at how often I have to re-enter data across the various Google services, because the different services aren't allowed to share data. I'm not attributing altruism to Google's change, but it still seems like progress to me.

      I also don't appreciate the fact that they have many, complicated privacy policies, and I really appreciate the fact that this change reduces them all to one, much simpler, policy.

      • by Angua (1732766)

        Personally, I get annoyed at how often I have to re-enter data across the various Google services, because the different services aren't allowed to share data.

        I understand and appreciate your point, also the one about simplified privacy policy. But for me, it's the other way around. It freaks me out when I go from one site to another and my personal info follows me. I wouldn't mind so much if there was an opt out, but apparently there isn't.

        • by Qwavel (733416)

          Yes, I think the lack of an opt-out is one of the issues. Practically, that would mean that Google would have two maintain two versions of their software - potentially another version for each country that rejects future changes. And their external systems, like Android, would need to be able to work with each different version. That sounds like a nightmare to me.

          I tend to think of privacy in terms of companies: if Google knows something then I expect them to know it everywhere, but not sell it or leak i

          • Re:LOzzz!!! (Score:4, Insightful)

            by Luckyo (1726890) on Monday February 18, 2013 @09:27PM (#42940571)

            Issue is that privacy laws are set based on two things:
            1. Cultural expectations of privacy in the region.
            2. Attempts at circumventing aforementioned expectations for various reasons such as profit.

            Issue is that nothing like google existed when current laws were drafted. It does now and it's in a clear and direct opposition with 1. in EU. This means that privacy watchdogs will either have to find applicable laws that will be interpreted in a way that fits 1. and goes against what google does (and many laws in these areas are often drafted specifically to allow for this by executive organs without forcing legislation changes) or they will push new legislation to specifically outlaw what google is currently doing.

            The conflict was pretty obvious even with old google services, but it was viewed as a tolerable one. When google unified its services, pretty much every privacy watchdog across the continent red flagged the changes and made inquiries to google as to what it intends to do to resolve this conflict. Google did the (apparently) stupid thing by going with "we're too big to care, fuck off" answer of "we're withing the scope of law". A really stupid answer when you're talking to organisations that have power to both interpret laws as well as wield heavy influence in legislative process through being specialists in their respective field that is essentially consulted and relied upon to maintain privacy rules.

            I don't see a good outcome for google unless they intend to spend a lot of effort lobbying hard. Considering that I doubt stupidity being the thing behind decision here, as there are plenty of smart people at google, it's likely that google is hoping to push for paradigm shift and is going all-in.

            This obviously means that if it loses, it stands to lose a lot.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      You do realize that Google's only getting into trouble because they're the most transparent company out there? People are idiots, even those in governments.

      I mean, think about it: the article even states that you HAVE TO LOG IN. If you don't ... guess what? They can't track you! If I had a problem with my privacy and Google (even with an Android device)... I just wouldn't log in, and find equivalents to Google services elsewhere. That's right - even on Nexus devices, you can completely opt out of Goog

  • strange (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Trepidity (597) <delirium-slashdot@@@hackish...org> on Monday February 18, 2013 @05:58PM (#42939229)

    Google has a large legal team, so I assume not responding is deliberate, rather than because they forgot or just couldn't think of what to respond with.

    • Re:strange (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Cley Faye (1123605) on Monday February 18, 2013 @06:17PM (#42939345) Homepage
      The CNIL (a French agency checking privacy issues on internet) is almost powerless: they can barely "suggest" stuff to be done, maybe, once every new moon, even on France-only related issues. They can't propose laws or impose anything on anyone. I believe google is well aware of their power and responded adequatly :-)

      Not saying that nothing should be done on the issue, but it won't work at such a small scale.
      • Re:strange (Score:5, Informative)

        by Trepidity (597) <delirium-slashdot@@@hackish...org> on Monday February 18, 2013 @06:50PM (#42939555)

        Ah it looks like you're right, at least in terms of any serious sanctions. They do have the authority to impose fines, but the fine amounts look so small I assume Google just doesn't care. In fact, from what I can find, Google currently holds the record for a CNIL fine: in 2011 they were fined 100,000 Euros [www.cnil.fr] over wifi data that was recorded by Google Street View cars. They didn't bother to send any response to the inquiry that time, either.

        • by mdielmann (514750)

          Sounds like Google has good lawyers. "To be honest, you'll spend more defending yourself against these guys than they'll ever fine you for. Your best bet is to assign someone in AP to pay this off as close to the deadline as possible, so that you can at least save the interest. Now, on to something that's actually important..."

        • by rtb61 (674572)

          Google is simply being targeted as the largest. Working out this internet privacy thing is still new to them, the law makers are testing things out, checking for public approval, seeing how deep the rules need to be and how structured enforcing of the rules need to be. Even checking size of companies to which it needs to be applied. Google can dick around with arrogance and lawyers all it wants, it will most certainly get caught up in rapidly escalating fines and then start driving prison sentences to be e

      • by Luckyo (1726890)

        This isn't just about France. The problem is that this issue has been raised across the continent. Individual organisations are fairly weak because they're built to deal with things like magazines violating privacy of individual citizens.

        However when they all push together, this is bound to start biting google hard, because a pan-european effort will get both to EU parliament as well as commission. And that means new legislative packages, even more ammunition for competition commissioner and in worst case s

      • You are wrong here, they are a member of the Article 29 group.
    • Google has a large legal team, so I assume not responding is deliberate, rather than because they forgot or just couldn't think of what to respond with.

      Sure, you assume that, and I will assume it's just more hubris.

  • Our government works for us, not the corporations who want to turn our private lives into profit.

    • Re:Fuck yeah (Score:4, Insightful)

      by toutankh (1544253) on Monday February 18, 2013 @07:01PM (#42939629)

      Especially when said corporations are not European and not government. France has no problem amassing ridiculous amounts of data (of questionable quality) to use against their own citizens, here is a list [wikipedia.org] (only available in French unfortunately).

      Said differently: when your government does something that has a positive impact for you, it doesn't mean it's doing it for you. A pessimist would argue that there likely is a higher interest at stake.

    • Our government works for us, not the corporations who want to turn our private lives into profit.

      HADOPI? It is undeniably true that France has a distinct distaste for data-hoovering American internet companies(how much out of a genuine commitment to privacy law, and how much out of an ongoing jealous spat over the surprising lack of data-hoovering French internet companies is somewhat unclear); but damn are they ever 'helpful' when it comes to protecting those culturally-vital copyright holders...

  • is to purchase the EU and destroy all their Apple and Microsoft products , then the rest of the world is next!
  • by Anonymous Coward

    The EU is funding INDECT which will have automated scanning of all online communications.

    But it will obviously only be used for detecting "child pornography" and "organ trafficking".

    As in, you search through the online communications and profiles of every citizen in the EU to detect and expose organ trafficking, the major issue facing the EU right now.

  • So I'm curious, what other possible sanctions can they impose on Google? Clearly they'll begin with some sort of fine, but are there other actions that they may take, and if so, what?
    • So I'm curious, what other possible sanctions can they impose on Google? Clearly they'll begin with some sort of fine, but are there other actions that they may take, and if so, what?

      I'm no expert in international politics but I'll take a jab at it.... The EU is a unified market area of over 500 million 1st world consumers. Google is not going to want pass up on an opportunity to make money in a place like that. If Google want's to make money in the EU it has to either have a presence somewhere in the EU or by some other means funnel cash from customers in the EU to wherever Google's favourite tax havens are at the moment. That gives the EU a way to make life hard for Google and also a

    • They can seize assets, such as patents and copyrights and put them in the public domain.

  • by ccguy (1116865) on Monday February 18, 2013 @06:24PM (#42939391) Homepage
    Seriously, EU, you should go after PayPal first. They are doing whatever the fuck they want over here.
    • by node 3 (115640)

      ONLY ONE THING AT A TIME PLZ1!11

      ???

      Besides, PayPal is sufficiently optional across the entire web with very few exceptions (beyond eBay, I'm not sure of anything of note that requires PayPal).

      • ONLY ONE THING AT A TIME PLZ1!11

        ???

        Besides, PayPal is sufficiently optional across the entire web with very few exceptions (beyond eBay, I'm not sure of anything of note that requires PayPal).

        Organizations and firms that require PayPal to conduct business with you aren't as rare as you might think. Or as rare as I used to think. This past year, I've dealt with 3. In two of those cases, I went ahead and did the deal. The third had viable non-PayPal-requiring alternatives. None were any sort of eBay (or auction) thing at all.

        • by node 3 (115640)

          Three over the course of a whole year? And one of them had an alternative?

          How does that remotely compare to Google? I'd be surprised if the average user doesn't feed Google data any less than three times *per hour* on average, not a paltry thrice per year.

      • by ccguy (1116865)

        Besides, PayPal is sufficiently optional across the entire web with very few exceptions (beyond eBay, I'm not sure of anything of note that requires PayPal).

        Try starting a online business in Europe. There's no google checkout or amazon payments, all paypal competitors seem as sketchy as paypal or worse, and the online payment solutions offered by traditional banks are an absolute joke.

        • by node 3 (115640)

          Even if *all* online small business purchases went through PayPal in Europe, that's still less impact that Google has on user's daily lives. And, besides, it's not like only one service can be addressed at a time.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      PayPal is a bank, based in Luxemburg, in the EU, with all the rules and regulations that entails. You Americans should do follow suit.

  • are beginning to annoy me..

  • Ridiculous (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Maudib (223520) on Monday February 18, 2013 @06:40PM (#42939497)

    No one is forced to use Google. If you don't want them to do things with your data, don't give it to them.

    • Re:Ridiculous (Score:4, Interesting)

      by tlhIngan (30335) <slashdotNO@SPAMworf.net> on Monday February 18, 2013 @07:08PM (#42939667)

      No one is forced to use Google. If you don't want them to do things with your data, don't give it to them.

      How?

      Avoiding Google owned properties eliminates a good chunk of the 'net - and not just obvious ones like google search, gmail, picasa, youtube, etc. The +1 buttons are everywhere, google-owned ads are everywhere (and not just adsense, we're talking about doubleclick, admob and other google-owned ad companies). Plus they have CDNs and other things like google-analytics.

      If google were to disappear tomorrow, the internet would end up horribly broken - many websites use google analytics on every link in order to track you.

      Google has literally reached a point where they are too big to fail

      • by tlhIngan (30335)

        Also, don't forget about secondary tracking. Stuff like sending an email to someone who uses Google Mail (gmail or for domains, for example). In which case Google gets to violate your privacy as you didn't really agree to any privacy policy because you don't use google services nor agreed to them.

    • No one is forced to use Google. If you don't want them to do things with your data, don't give it to them.

      As with facebook, the only winning move isn't to not play, but to not exist.

    • by Qwavel (733416)

      Above I defend Google in this regard, but I think your statement goes too far. People gave Google their data under one set of privacy policies, now Google wants to change those policies unilaterally. I happen to think that the changes are good for users and necessary for Google to move forward, but I think it is OK to question any unilateral change like this.

    • by Hentes (2461350)

      The EU isn't a free market, if Google wants to do business here (and apparently they do like some low-tax members) it has to obey EU laws. Consumer protection [wikipedia.org] is a well established form of regulation.
      Now you are not forced to give Google your data, even if you use their services, as it's possible to opt out from tracking. This could probably have saved Google had they bothered to actually defend themselves.

    • by sg_oneill (159032)

      Actually thats sort of what this is about. People are being forced to use it by all the covert web tracking.

      • by Maudib (223520)

        No one is forced to use anything. People voluntarily make requests to and pass information to web servers. The very act of doing so should considered consent unless there is an explicit agreement stipulating use.

    • by houghi (78078)

      Nobody is forcing Google to do business in Europe.
      If they are unwilling to follow the law, then don't do business there.
      If they are unable to follow the law, then don't do business there.

      Imagine if the European brewers would start giving beer tastings to people between the age of 18 to 21 saying: hey, we don't force it up onto them and we do the same in e.g. Belgium in the supermarkets.

  • I wonder what would happen if Google just turned a country off. Just boom, no Google for you. No Google, no Gmail, no Youtube. I wonder if it'd make a noticeable impact on a GNP. Of course, Youtube and Google's other functionality might balance themselves out in terms of productivity gained or lost, so it might be a wash. At least, once the rioting quieted down.
    • by Maudib (223520)

      The French government would love this. I'm sure that at it's root their objection to Google is that its not French. Remember that god awful Parisian municipal network that was pushed by government but no one used?

  • "I fart in your general direction!"

    "Your mother was a hamster and your father smelled of elderberries!"

    All they want is money out of Google. They can't tax the "services" that are provided, so they'll some how figure out how to extort money. I don't discount their arguments however this is France talking, not the EU, so I'd like to see what the EU bureacracy has to say about the Privacy concerns with Google services. Strange though, I don't see them going after Facebook yet... woops, they already have.

    • by cheros (223479)

      All they want is money out of Google

      I think they are starting from the position that Google knows damn well what the EU privacy laws look like, they have now been caught AGAIN at ignoring them and they have had plenty of time to formulate *any* kind of answer ranging from apology and compliance to at least engaging in discussion on how to solve the issue. Instead, they have calmly ignored a letter sent to them in name of 27 separate countries, meanwhile collecting even more income from what in some cases i

      • by Virtucon (127420)

        Well Google has a big team of lawyers who probably recommended that they don't say anything at this point because the bigger EU fines would probably supersede whatever France decides to do anyway. I don't think it's thumbing their noses at the French but in general, that's usually what most legal advice entails, wait and see then argue in court later.

    • by Xest (935314)

      To be fair, companies like Google have been saying it's morally right that if they can avoid tax in countries like France that they should, and they've simply pay next to no taxes there.

      The flip side of that is it means that if governments like the government of France feel it's morally right that companies do pay taxes for things like privacy intrusion, then they also have an equal right to do that.

      Or in other words, perhaps if companies like Google didn't dodge taxes in the first place and paid what it wa

      • by Virtucon (127420)

        Well that's the crux of the matter then. Is it a revenue or a privacy thing? I think it's hypocritical and corrupt to say that you're going after somebody because of Privacy issues but you're willing to let it slide if you just pay a small amount of your revenue to have the problem overlooked.

  • Hey, that's a nice patent/copyright portfolio you got there. Would be a shame if anything happened to it...

  • They find ways to make billions of dollars off of foreign companies. I bet all of you my hat, big record penalties are going to be imposed. Just in time to fund some bailouts (how lucky!)

Receiving a million dollars tax free will make you feel better than being flat broke and having a stomach ache. -- Dolph Sharp, "I'm O.K., You're Not So Hot"

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