Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) has been well-documented, especially by us here in the Insider Monkey newsroom, about privacy and data collection of users on Google and other partner websites around the Internet. Google got its start as a search engine, but once it started incorporating advertising and growing its empire, it has become one of the biggest data-collection companies in the world.
And in Europe, the citizens there have always been very concerned about their data being collected, much less shared with advertisers, as Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) does routinely. They have been pushing to get laws developed that would ensure as much anonymity online as can possibly be guaranteed by the very open Internet and the companies who operate on them but require data to help advertisers with their targeted ad strategies.
And while Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) had maintained all along that its privacy and data-collection policies are in compliance with European regulations, yet another European country is taking exception to what Google does with the information it gathers and how it stores it and how much personal information is on file. This week, the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) in the United Kingdom is now doing some saber-rattling, saying that it is demanding that Google change its privacy policies because it claims that they are violating the country's Data Protection Act.
Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) made some changes to its privacy policies late last year to apply across all its properties - not just Search, but also Google+, Gmail and YouTube to name a few. But ever since the changes were made, several EU-member nations have expressed displeasure in the new policies, as France and Spain have already voiced their intentions to investigate Google for its practices.
The U.K. has been patient, we hear, because it supposedly consulted with 27 other EU authorities before making this current declaration, giving Google until mid-September to change the policy to be compliant with U.K. law for face "formal enforcement." What all this entails is not clear, but the maximum that can be imposed is only about one-half of 1 percent of Google's first-quarter revenues in the U.K. And of course, Google predictably maintains that its polices "respect" U.K. privacy laws. What does that mean? We have a theory.