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

Related Stories

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."


More on This Story

Related Stories

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites


This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
  • rate this

    Comment number 145.

    How bizarre!
    Those who wish to stand by the very basic principles of privacy, having seen the thin end of a wedge disappearing further into the gap created over some years now, are considered 'tree-huggers', 'lefties', 'pinkos', 'hippies' and a host of other baseless terms, whilst those mindlessly accepting any and all intrusion into privacy are normal?
    Spare me from normaility then!

  • rate this

    Comment number 144.

    It seems that many of us are sleepwalking into providing a comprehensive record of our behaviour and thinking.

    #The personal information we provide is a gold mine for any potential enemy forces who may occupy your country.

    #Enemy forces from within who desire to label and tag people to manipulate the unwary in anyway they wish.

    #On a positive note: this is great for social-psychology studies.

  • rate this

    Comment number 143.

    62. biggeoff14

    Google Analytics is a useful web statistics tool to see how much traffic your site generates, which pages are popular and which aren't, and how much time is spent on your site. It doesn't tell you anything about individual users and it certainly doesn't tell page owners who they are. It's an advanced version of the old visitor counters.

  • rate this

    Comment number 142.

    To be honest I am usually busy when on-line so very seldom pay any attention to what is being advertised, and in fact have more important things to worry about, the same applies to store cards etc, at the end of the day somebody somewhere has loads of info on me from NHS to HMRC etc, nothing to be done about it, and it really does not matter in the great scheme of things!

  • rate this

    Comment number 141.

    "If there is a way to disable this, can someone please post the instructions?"

    Lots of information on this. Just type "disable google data collection" into google.

  • rate this

    Comment number 140.

    This is all stupid, majority of people willingly submit personal details on social networking sites, allow tracking of the whereabouts with mobile phones, it seems google is taking advantage of people who want to be spied upon. Try ghostery great bit of kit and free.

  • rate this

    Comment number 139.

    Why all these concerns about something that has been around for quite some time.. they have only unified the privacy rules across Google products and you still have the option to opt out if you don't like it!! A storm in a tea cup... We should be more concerned about the attempts of some governments to limit the freedom of speech within the internet that on the other hand is a serious matter.

  • rate this

    Comment number 138.

    "Caveat Emptor" ("Let the buyer beware") - still as relevent today as it was over two thousand years ago. Never assume a commercial company has your best interests at heart (unless there's something in it for them) and NEVER, NEVER let them persuade you they are your very best friend. Treat them as you would 'Del Boy' - be affable but on your guard!

  • rate this

    Comment number 137.

    Good to see Google telling the EU thought police where to shove their regulation. Most of our national institutions and government agencies are happily selling our information to all and sundry so why should Google not do so ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 136.

    You don't need a Google account, all you need is to visit one of their associated pages and you're within their sights - unknowingly.
    Do you know as much of them as they do you?
    Think about it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 135.

    The issue is that Google has a monopoly in a number of areas. The average user* will have an impaired experience without Google.

    Google has made it very hard not to be tracked, their cookies follow you around the web (just like Facebook). Even with the 'dashboard', users aren't able to close most services etc.

    *if you don't know what a VPN is, how to use tor, the alternative duckduckgo, etc.

  • rate this

    Comment number 134.

    Hellbent on Global domination
    Remind you of any one?

  • rate this

    Comment number 133.

    Tips if you want complete internet privacy.
    1. Do NOT use Microsoft or Apple OS's. Use any flavour of the open source Linux instead.
    2. Use Firefox, and install the add-ins needed for privacy (Adblock, Noscript, etc.)
    3. Subscribe to and use an anonomised proxy server (JonDonym is good and has a Firefox add-in).

  • rate this

    Comment number 132.

    Just UNINSTALLED mine.
    Sorry about the last message I was too excited doing my 'little man dance'.

  • rate this

    Comment number 131.

    If a service is 'free' your seen as a prospect & reasonable to assume some of the data you generate will be used to target advertising at you - if you pay for it, your the customer & may have a little more control. Google, twitter, FB etc are Co's not charities. Don't like, don't use - try ad bockers & understand T&C's. FB timeline = marketing opportunity - getting married, baby, moving house etc

  • rate this

    Comment number 130.

    Data protection is something alot of companies pay mere lip service too. From small employers to giant companies like google they profess compliance but rarely are compliant with their employees or customers data.Its business which is money and power so dont expect this govt to do anything soon about it. If you download a copied mp3 the FBI will be at your door tomorrow ready to extradite you!

  • rate this

    Comment number 129.

    This is nothing much different to what ALL companies seem to be doing these days, except they are sharing data in their own group. How many companies share data with other sellers?

    At least I can choose to ignore what Google put on my screen. Better than all the junk mail and cold calls, which are legal in the EU

  • rate this

    Comment number 128.

    Reading these comments i see that tinfoil hats have been selling out fast at the local stores. Better get mine in quick before they try to read my mind.

    Your emails are being screened and your search parameters are being scrutinized, no matter which engine you use. As someone who has worked in market research for over 10 years, we can if we want know all your info.

  • rate this

    Comment number 127.

    Lets not "google it" for a week and see if they get the message.

    PS @117 please forward the ad when you get it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 126.

    When Megaupload were shut down you had all the 'keep the internet free, down with censorship' brigade up in arms for internet usage being restricted.

    Now Google, who are just another web user at the end of the day are using the 'freedom' of the internet, that's apparently wrong too and they're internet usage should be restricted.

    Pots and kettles spring to mind...


Page 16 of 23


More Technology stories



Copyright © 2015 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.