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UK users say regulators should be more proactive against Google’s privacy policy

The Article 29 Working Party comprises representatives from each of the EU member states’ national data protection regulatory authorities – such as the ICO in the UK, CNIL in France, and the Office of the Federal Commissioner for Data Protection and Freedom of Information in Germany. 

Following Google’s new combined privacy policy launched on 1 March 2012, the Article 29 group published an opinion with recommendations in October 2012. Its conclusion was quite blunt: “Google’s Privacy Policy fails to respect the obligation of information, laid down in section IV of the Data protection directive.” The publication went on to say that “Google should implement the following recommendations in order to comply with the Data protection legislation,” listing 12 separate requirements. Google was given four months to comply. 

That four month period has expired, and the French authority, CNIL, has said that no satisfactory response has been received from Google. Consequently, CNIL (which is leading the group’s action against Google) will be submitting an action plan to tomorrow’s Article 29 meeting in Brussels to co-ordinate next steps against the search giant.

It is against this background that UK privacy campaign group Big Brother Watch commissioned a survey of more than 2000 user attitudes conducted online by ComRes. It found that nearly 70% of people are concerned about their online privacy, while nearly half believe that consumers are actually harmed by large companies collecting large amounts of personal data. “The message from consumers is clear,” says Nick Pickles, director of Big Brother Watch; “regulators were right to investigate Google’s new privacy policy and now they need to do more to force the company to comply with the law.”

Companies that collect personal data usually justify the action by claiming it will allow them to enhance the user experience. The survey suggests, however, that most users reject this argument: only 18% of respondents accepted the premise. “People increasingly feel their interests and privacy are being ignored by large companies and advertisers motivated by profit,” said Pickles. “Google’s business is dependent on collecting more data about us and our online identities, but consumers do not trust that either Google or regulators take their privacy and wider concerns seriously enough.”

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