Google’s privacy policy does not comply with UK law, says ICO

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has told Google that it must overhaul its privacy policy to comply with the Data Protection Act, citing a lack of transparency over how UK users' data will be used.

Data protection authorities across Europe including the ICO have been investigating Google since April over major revisions to its privacy policy made last year.

The ICO has concluded that the updated policy “raises serious questions about its compliance with the UK Data Protection Act” and “does not provide sufficient information to enable UK users of Google’s services to understand how their data will be used across all of the company’s products.”

The damning report is the latest in a string of investigations by data protection protection authorities into Google over recent years – in 2011, French data privacy regulator the National Commission for Information Freedom (CNIL) fined the company €100,000 after it found its Street View cars were capturing unencrypted data from WiFi networks as they drove around.

In 2010 the company paid $8.5 million in a lawsuit when it was found to have automatically signed up Gmail users to Buzz, its new social network add-on, without permission, exposing their personal information. The platform was shut down earlier this year.

A survey by privacy campaign group Big Brother Watch in June found that two out of three of consumers believe that national regulators should do more to force Google to comply with existing regulations concerning online privacy and the protection of personal data.

“Google must now amend their privacy policy to make it more informative for individual service users,” The ICO said in its statement yesterday, warning that failure to improve its policies in compliance with the Data Protection Act by 20th September would “leave the company open to the possibility of formal enforcement action.”

In response, a Google spokesperson told Information Age that the company’s privacy policy “respects European law,” allowing it to “create simpler, more effective services.”

“We have engaged fully with the authorities involved throughout this process, and we’ll continue to do so going forward."

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Ben Rossi

Ben was Vitesse Media's editorial director, leading content creation and editorial strategy across all Vitesse products, including its market-leading B2B and consumer magazines, websites, research and...

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