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Google fined €150,000 in French privacy row

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Google fined €150,000 in French privacy row
Google was fined €150,000 by French data protection watchdog. Photo: Carlos Luna
18:13 CET+01:00
The running battle between Google and French privacy watchdogs culminated Friday with the web giant being fined €150,000. The penalty was a response to Google's practices for handling user data.

France's data protection watchdog on Wednesday fined Google €150,000 ($205,000) -- the maximum possible -- for failing to comply with its privacy guidelines for personal data.

The watchdog, the CNIL, also ordered the US Internet giant to publish a statement relating to its decision on its French homepage for at least 48 hours within the next eight days.

The watchdog said this summer that Google had failed to provide it sufficient assurances about its use and storage of users data.

Cnil President Isabelle Falque-Pierrotin told AFP previously Google must set a clear limit on the length of time it can store the data obtained from web surfers and seek prior approval from them before installing cookies on their devices.

France's move follows Google's introduction last year of a new privacy policy which enables it to track users activity across its search engine, Gmail, the Google+ social networking platform and other services it owns, which include YouTube.

The changes make it easier for Google to collect and process data that could be used by advertisers to target individuals with offers tailored to their specific interest, thereby increasing the company's revenue potential.

The changes have been widely criticized because of the implications for privacy but the pressure on Google to change how it operates has been limited to date.

The 27-member European Union warned Google in October 2012 that its data protection procedures did not comply with an EU directive on the subject and gave the company four months to change them.

That deadline passed without any action, prompting France to set up a task force of individual member states interested in pursuing the issue that involved Britain, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Spain.

Cnil President Falque-Pierrotin noted that while the maximum fine Google could face under French law was relatively small, Spain has the capacity of impose a penalty of up to one million euros.

Google has defended the changes it made last year on the grounds that it simplifies and standardizes its approach across its various services.

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