The EU Justice Commissioner Says Google’s New Privacy Policy Breaks European Law

The European Union’s Justice Commissioner, Viviane Reding, told BBC Radio Four that Google’s new more intrusive privacy policy breaches privacy laws that are meant to protect European citizens. She made this judgment public on the World At One program the same day Google fully implemented its new privacy policy and two days after a French data protection agency released a report finding Google’s new privacy policy ‘deeply concerning’ (for more on this – click here).

The European Commission is in the process of overhauling their privacy rules so that it can address important issues of the 21st century. They recognize that a greater number of people are spending more time on the Internet. With so many of us spending significant amount of our time on the web, it obviously means that we are in desperate need of greater protections. The Commission wants to streamline privacy rules across all of Europe.

Google announced that they were going to toss out all their privacy policies across all their different services to combine it into a singular policy that would apply to all. Of course, this means now that Google can track you more easily all over the web and make it more efficient to sell your personal data to advertisers.

Europeans are very protective of their online privacy and they were immediately concerned about Google’s announcement, which the company made in late January. European regulators asked Google to delay their new privacy policy until a full investigation could be completed. Google outright refused.

Now, Google has to face the music for its arrogance and lack of respect for the legal process. Google commented several times that it was confident that it was abiding by laws and behaved as if the company knows European law better than the people who made those laws in the first place. They obviously do not and, despite warnings, Google went through with changing their privacy policies.

Google was basically asking for it by ignoring the EU privacy regulators when those regulators asked the company to halt their new privacy policy. It’s as if Google immaturely said to them: “make me!”

Ms. Reding was asked in what respects has Google broken EU laws. She said,

“In numerous respects. One is that nobody had been consulted, it is not in accordance with the law on transparency and it utilizes the data of private persons in order to hand it over to third parties, which is not what the users have agreed to. Protection of personal data is a basic rule of the European Union. It is inscribed in the treaties. It is not an if, it is a must”  

She even went on to say that many people are in dark about the full implications of using Google’s services. The company fails to fully tell users to what extent their information will be stored and to whom it will be shared with. People don’t know what they are getting themselves into:

“Seventy percent of users rarely, or never, use terms and conditions which very often are written in small print, very complicated, not understandable for the normal user, and users are worried. Eighty percent of British citizens say they’re concerned about what is going on now”

She said that companies like Google, which make over 90% of their revenues from advertising, have a business model that leaves users completely vulnerable to violations of their privacy. However, the EU will not sit back and watch Google exploit innocent people who are often times unaware just how much damage is being done to them:

“We know data is the bloodstream of these new industries … but at the same time there are basic European rules … which have to be applied, and unfortunately we always see that those rules are just not observed, and illegality is taking over”

Google – it looks like you’re about to be made.

For more information:

BBC, “Google privacy changes ‘in breach of EU law’” – click here

Reuters, “EU agencies say Google breaking law – commissioner” – click here

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