Google defies lawmakers to impose new privacy policy

Google EU row. (AFP Photo DDP/ Torsten Silz Germany Out)
Google has launched a controversial new privacy policy, despite evidence that it could violate EU data protection laws. The US internet giant has turned a blind eye to the charge, pushing ahead with its March 1 start date.

Google’s new rules regulate how it uses the huge volumes of personal data it collects through its search engine, email and other services.

The search giant is creating more comprehensive user profiles that it maintains will enhance customer experience.It will do this by gathering data on individuals from a range of different applications and filing it under a single profile. In reality, the new policy will allow Google to access to a veritable font of personal information. It is likely that the profiles will be used to sell advertising which is closely tailored to users’ tastes, boosting an already lucrative annual income of $38 billion.

The new reforms have put Google in a precarious position as a company that pertains to offer free search and email services whilst drumming up a profit through advertising sales.

As soon as the search giant announced its new privacy guidelines, the EU's data protection authorities invited an information commission to make a detailed analysis of the proposed policy. The US Federal Trade Commission has also launched a probe into the changes to Google’s privacy policy which seeks to establish whether they favor company’s own products over consumer service.

Having studied the new terms, the French National Commission for Computing and Freedom (CNIL) concluded that “preliminary findings show that Google’s new policy fails to meet the requirements of the European Data Protection Directive (95/46/CE) regarding the information that must be provided to data subjects.”

The Commission therefore asked Google to postpone implementing the new policy, forwarding the request to Google’s directors and posting it on its website.

The request was welcomed by the EU's Justice Commissioner, who oversees the bloc's data protection rules, and who also called on Google to delay its new regulations.

The CNIL revelation sparked a public spat, with the US search company showing no sign of backing down. Google has defended its new policy as “simple, clear and transparent” and insists that its main purpose is to combine the 70-odd rules governing Google's wide-ranging services into a simpler and more readable form.

It insists gathering personal data in one profile would “make search results more relevant and would allow a user to cross-navigate between different services more easily.”

But CNIL commissioners argue that “rather than promoting transparency, the terms of the new policy … raise fears and questions about Google’s actual practices.”

They also voice their deep concern “about the combination of data across services” and strong doubts “about the lawfulness and fairness of such processing.”

Google, however, has shot back, arguing that it will provide more detailed explanations of how it will use data by other means.They cite their online help centre, and the notifications that appear inside some products and in the “frequently asked questions” sections.

Meanwhile, online polls suggests fewer than one in eight Google users have bothered to read the Internet giant's new privacy policy, which will allow the company to freely use information about what they search for and do online.