French fine Google over change in privacy policy

CNIL says Google broke a French privacy law when it merged the privacy policies of its services

The French government's privacy watchdog has fined Google €150,000 (US$204,000) over changes the company made to its privacy policy in March 2012.

The changes Google made to its privacy policy don't comply with the French Data Protection Act, the Commission Nationale de L'Informatique et des Libertes (CNIL) said Wednesday.

Google's decision in 2012 to merge the privacy policies of about 60 of its services, including search YouTube, Gmail, Picasa and Docs, led to the French investigation. Google failed to sufficiently inform users about how the services would use their personal data and did not comply with French requirements to get user permission before installing cookies on their computers, CNIL said. Google also combined the data it collects about its users "across all of its services without any legal basis," CNIL said in a press release.

Google's actions had a widespread effect in France, the agency said. "Nearly all Internet users in France are impacted by this decision due to the number of services concerned," it said.

A Google spokeswoman said the company is reading CNIL's report closely to determine its next steps. "We've engaged fully with the CNIL throughout this process to explain our privacy policy and how it allows us to create simpler, more effective services," she added by email.

CNIL's Sanctions Committee did not challenge Google's right to simplify its privacy policies by merging them, the agency said.

The Sanctions Committee has ordered Google to publish the agency's decision at Google.fr within 48 hours and keep it up for eight days.

CNIL announced an investigation into the privacy policy change in September.

Grant Gross covers technology and telecom policy in the U.S. government for The IDG News Service. Follow Grant on Twitter at GrantGross. Grant's email address is grant_gross@idg.com.

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