Mike Isaac

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European Watchdogs Order Google to Rewrite Privacy Policy

privacy_importantIf the U.K. has its way, Google’s privacy policies may soon get more easily digestible.

On Friday, the Information Commissioner’s Office in the United Kingdom ordered Google to rewrite its privacy policy, first instituted in early 2012.

“In particular, we believe that the updated policy does not provide sufficient information to enable U.K. users of Google’s services to understand how their data will be used across all of the company’s products,” the ICO said. “Google must now amend their privacy policy to make it more informative for individual service users.”

The order comes in the wake of similar demands from a number of other countries, including French regulatory agency Commission Nationale de l’informatique et des Libertes, as well as its counterpart in Spain.

It is a response (albeit a late one) to Google’s complete overhaul of its privacy policies, which saw Google consolidate more than 70 separate privacy policies into a single, unified document. It was Google’s first sign of tightening the connections among all of its services. Search Engine Land founder Danny Sullivan put it best at the time: “Rather than people signing up for individual products — Gmail, YouTube and so on — they’re now signing up for Google.”

While integrating the myriad policies could be seen as helpful for users who didn’t want to have to re-scrutinize a different policy across every Google service, the handful of European Union countries believe that Google’s latest unified version is still too confusing for consumers.

Google responded to AllThingsD with the following statement:

“Our privacy policy respects European law and allows us 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.”

However “engaged” Google is with the agencies requesting the changes of the company, it doesn’t have much time to comply (or not comply).

“Failure to take the necessary action to improve the policies compliance with the Data Protection Act by 20 September will leave the company open to the possibility of formal enforcement action,” the ICO said. That could include legal action and potential fines.


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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik