Google privacy changes 'in breach of EU law'

People sit on a sofa in front of a Google logo The new privacy policy is rolling out around the world on 1 March

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Changes made by Google to its privacy policy are in breach of European law, the EU's justice commissioner has said.

Viviane Reding told the BBC that authorities found that "transparency rules have not been applied".

The policy change, implemented on Thursday, means private data collected by one Google service can be shared with its other platforms including YouTube, Gmail and Blogger.

Google said it believed the new policy complied with EU law.

"We are confident that our new simple, clear and transparent privacy policy respects all European data protection laws and principles," it said in a statement.

It said the new set-up would enable it to tailor search results more effectively, as well as offer better targeted advertising to users.

It went ahead with the changes despite warnings from the EU earlier this week.

Data regulators in France had cast doubt on the legality of the move and launched a Europe-wide investigation.

Deleting your Google browsing history

Step 1: Login to your Google account and visit the Google history page.
Step 2: You will see a list of sites you have visited. Click on the button "Remove all web history".
Step 3: You will be asked if you are sure you want to remove your history. Click OK.
Step 4: You will then be told your history is "paused" and is currently empty.
Step 5: Visit Google's privacy tools page to change further privacy settings.

More than 60 sets of guidelines for its individual Google-owned sites were merged into a single policy for all of its services.

It means browsing data and web history, which is gathered when a user is signed in with a Google account, can be shared across all of the websites.

Linked activity

Google's business model - the selling of ads targeted on individual user behaviour - relies on collecting browsing information from its visitors.

Until Thursday, different services did not share this information.

This meant a search on, for example, YouTube, would not affect the results or advertising you would encounter on another Google site such as Gmail.

The new agreement, which users cannot opt out of unless they stop using Google's services, will mean activity on all of the company's sites will be linked.

Logging out of Google's services will reduce the amount of data stored by the company, although - like many other sites - it will still store anonymous data about web activity.

France's privacy watchdog CNIL wrote to Google earlier this week, urging a "pause" in rolling out the revised policy.

Debate: Is privacy row a "storm in a teacup"?

"The CNIL and EU data authorities are deeply concerned about the combination of personal data across services," the regulator wrote.

"They have strong doubts about the lawfulness and fairness of such processing, and its compliance with European data protection legislation."

The regulator said it would send Google questions on the changes by mid-March. On Thursday, Ms Reding told BBC Radio 4's World At One that conclusions from initial investigations had left CNIL "deeply concerned".

'Strong as ever'

Earlier, Google's global privacy counsel Peter Fleischer said he was happy to answer any concerns CNIL had.

"As we've said several times over the past week, while our privacy policies will change on 1st March, our commitment to our privacy principles is as strong as ever," Mr Fleischer wrote in a blog post.

Start Quote

Google is putting advertisers' interests before user privacy”

End Quote Nick Pickles Big Brother Watch

The company rejected the regulator's request to hold off on making the changes. Users are being moved on to the new single policy shortly after midnight on 1 March, local time.

Many websites and blogs in the technology community have given guidance for users concerned about how their browsing history will be used.

They suggest users can access, and delete, their browsing and search history on the site by logging in to

A similar page for YouTube viewing and search history can also be accessed.

Users can see which Google services hold data about them by viewing their dashboard.

'Advertiser interests'

In preparation for the policy change, Google displayed prominent messages notifying visitors about the plans. A dedicated section was set up to provide more details.

However, campaign group Big Brother Watch has argued that not enough has been done to ensure people are fully aware of the alterations.

WPP's chief executive, Sir Martin Sorrell, says consumers need simple ways to opt out of targeted marketing

A poll of more than 2,000 people conducted by the group in conjunction with YouGov suggested 47% of Google users in the UK were not aware policy changes were taking place.

Only 12% of British Google users, Big Brother Watch said, had read the new agreement.

The group's director Nick Pickles said: "If people don't understand what is happening to their personal information, how can they make an informed choice about using a service?

"Google is putting advertisers' interests before user privacy and should not be rushing ahead before the public understand what the changes will mean."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 125.

    Good to see that Google is ignoring the EU. The UK should do the same.

  • rate this

    Comment number 124.

    I think there is one VITAL right everyone should have - to be able to disconnect from the internet and NOT share your life with the world.

    I am going to be very tempted to do so when in the future I decide to retire. If people want to talk to me, they can come and lean on my front gate and chat.

    One thing I hate more than big-brother companies? Government FORCING us to use the internet.

  • rate this

    Comment number 123.

    Hellbent on Global domination.

  • rate this

    Comment number 122.

    And don't forget in Firefox, as well as Adblock and Do not track, install Flashblock and Noscript and only selectively enable bits of web pages as you need it. It's surprising how little you do need. And block cookies from Google and Google UK.

  • rate this

    Comment number 121.

    Just installed mine. Yipee..and now for my little man dance!

  • rate this

    Comment number 120.

    As nearly half of all computers worldwide are infected with malware, I wouldn't be too concerned at what Google is doing.

    A fool with a tool is still a fool.

  • rate this

    Comment number 119.

    Why not a choice to 'opt-in' if wanting a tracking & filing of personal information service, not the denial of service unless all personal info is made accessible to everybody.
    Imagine walking throught a shop door and them demanding all personal details before you can even browse, then on visiting an entirely different store being allowed access because all your details have already been sold on?

  • rate this

    Comment number 118.

    Google has been displaying a notice of changes on all services for weeks. Of course the 47% may not have a Google account, an option that remains open to everyone, no account = no history & all browsers now offer private browsing so no cookies to track your history. Google is amazing value & who cares about ads they are hardly intrusive. I just hope Google's security is better than Sony's!

  • rate this

    Comment number 117.

    I really don't like tailored search at all, and don't see why it would be an advantage to have what I see in the future 'tailored' to reflect what I have searched for in the past. Amazon now send me emails about televisions, because, as I am someone who recently bought a new TV, I will want to buy another one.
    Maybe Google will show me 'blonde lawnmowers with big @#+s' when the grass gets long?

  • rate this

    Comment number 116.

    We seem to be relaxed at Google taking our personal data and using it for its own ends.
    But when the Murdoch group does it, the roof falls in.
    We're supposed to have a right to privacy and there is a data protection act but google seem unaffected
    I sense a lot of double standards here. We seem to value brand and image over principles and laws more than we like to admit. One for the sociologists

  • rate this

    Comment number 115.

    Why all the the negatively form the tree huggers? Have you got something to hide?

    > No use waving that old platitude around. Just wait until some malign government gets in and demands access to your accumulated data. It happened in Germany in 1925, Hitler released from prison. A few million people with nothing to hide were dead by 1945.

  • rate this

    Comment number 114.

    What stupidity is this?

    As soon as you type into your computer, click anything, look at a page, talk through VOIP, or talk on a telephone, (mobile or fixed), those who want to can spy on you.

    Surely it makes better sense to permit this data sharing from public places to ensure everyone is aware of the public nature of communications?

    It makes better sense to me than living in a fools paradise!

  • rate this

    Comment number 113.

    I suppose going around photographing every bodies house is part of their privacy policy?

  • rate this

    Comment number 112.

    I closed my Gmail account two years ago; there are plenty of other email systems to use. I also closed my YouTube account when Google took it over. I use ad-blockers, track-me-nots and now never use Google search engine unless I'm on a proxy. You can do many things to cut down the snooping, all you have to do is research and implement the tools. We don't need Google in order to live, after all.

  • rate this

    Comment number 111.

    Just because they have acquired dominant position doesnt give them the right to abuse the power. It seems googe is following Microsoft footsteps and it needs to be brought down to its feet again.

  • rate this

    Comment number 110.

    Prisoners of the internet, big brother gone too far. I don't like people getting inside my head and assessing what I need in life. I have no time for the parasites who make money by distributing information about me. Nothing less than phone hacking gone insane.

  • rate this

    Comment number 109.

    I disagree with quite a few EU laws, I can't do anything about that.
    I do have a choice over whether i use google or not though.

  • rate this

    Comment number 108.

    How dare the Google suit clones belittle my concerns about my personal privacy and data by calling it a "storm in a tea cup".
    The alternative is clear; use a different Search Engine. Goodbye Google, nyah.

  • rate this

    Comment number 107.

    Why all the the negatively form the tree huggers? Have you got something to hide? If google wants to use my information to target specific ads at me, I say let them! They might actually be quite useful. Thank you Google.

  • rate this

    Comment number 106.

    If people are that concerned about the Google privacy policy, I would question whether they use Social Media websites as they by far gather more information.


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