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Daily Israel Report

Acting for Europe, France Threatens Google Over Privacy

Acting for Europe, France is threatening to fine the giant Google Internet search engine firm over privacy issues.
By Chana Ya'ar
First Publish: 6/20/2013, 3:57 PM

Google
Google
Israel news photo

Acting for 27 different nations -- five of which are planning action of their own -- France is threatening to fine the giant Google Internet search engine firm over privacy issues.

The company was warned this week by the national data protection agency CNIL it would have three months to come forward about the data it collects from its users, or risk being fined.

Google is being asked to define how long it keeps user data, and is being ordered not to combine users’ data ‘without legal basis."

Should it choose not to comply by the deadline, Google will face a fine of up to 150,000 euros ($190,000), or 300,000 euros for repeat offenses.

But the warning to Google by France appears to be just the opening salvo of a major offensive in Europe by some 27 national privacy regulators who asked France to initiate an investigation into Google’s privacy policy on their behalf.

Six of those – including France, Germany, Italy, the UK, Spain and the Netherlands – announced a formal investigation against the company back in April.

The dispute comes in the wake of an announcement by Google in early 2012 that it was changing its privacy policy for its various services to allow them to share data, such as YouTube and Gmail.

The attack by France followed a report that Google provided data on some of its users to the U.S. government for surveillance purposes, a revelation that came as part of a larger story on surveillance by the National Security Agency recently leaked by former CIA worker Edward Snowden.

In a request to a special U.S. court handling national security investigations, Google filed a brief asking for permission to publish the number of requests for data it received from America’s National Security Agency (NSA).

Although the Internet search engine firm said it already publishes information on data requests from the FBI and other law enforcement agencies in its "transparency report," more needed to be revealed.

"Greater transparency is needed, so today we have petitioned the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to allow us to publish aggregate numbers of national security requests, including FISA disclosures, separately," a Google spokesperson told media. "Lumping national security requests together with criminal requests, as some companies have been permitted to do, would be a backward step for our users," he said.

FISA refers to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act enacted to authorize the secret court.