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France takes on Google over privacy laws

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France takes on Google over privacy laws
14:59 CEST+02:00
BREAKING: Authorities in France, along with five other European countries, have taken steps to force US internet giant Google to comply with EU privacy rules, France's CNIL data protection agency said on Tuesday.

France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, and the United Kingdom "have launched actions on April 2nd 2013 on the basis of the provisions laid down in their respective national legislation" to force Google to make changes to its privacy policy to bring it in line with European regulations, CNIL said in a statement on Tuesday.

In October, the data protection agencies warned Google that its new privacy policy did not comply with EU laws and gave it four months to comply or face legal action.

"At the end of a four-month delay accorded to Google to conform and promise to implement recommendations, no response has been forthcoming by the company," France's CNIL data protection agency said in February.

Google rolled out the new privacy policy in March 2012, allowing it to track users across various services to develop targeted advertising, despite sharp criticism from US and European consumer advocacy groups.

It contends the move simplifies and unifies its policies across its various services such as Gmail, YouTube, Android mobile systems, social networks and internet search.

But critics argue that the policy, which offers no ability to opt out aside from refraining from signing into Google services, gives the operator of the world's largest search engine unprecedented ability to monitor its users.

Privacy is not the only issue France and other EU states have with Google at the moment.

In February, France, Britain and Germany launched a new push to force top firms including the internet giant, as well as Starbucks and Amazon to pay their share of tax and to halt tax avoidance schemes.

France's Pierre Moscovici, Britain's George Osborne and Germany's Wolfgang Schaeuble said it was time for internationally-coordinated action to clamp down on the practice of shifting profits from the company's home country to pay less tax under another jurisdiction.

Earlier this year, France did manage to reach an accord with Google over online advertising revenue, which settled a dispute over whether the Internet giant should pay to display news content in its search results.

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