Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) and the French haven’t exactly gotten along in recent years. The French have seemed to be the most vocal among all European Union members about various parts of Google’s business model – from setting up its browser search results to seemingly favor its own properties at the top of the results, to how many taxes Google pays, to now issue s involving private consumer data and how it is managed and stored. This latest beef, however, at least has some teeth to it. Baby teeth, perhaps, but teeth nonetheless.
The French government privacy watchdog called CNIL ruled earlier today that it will give Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) three months to make the necessary changes to the company’s privacy policies so they are compliant with french consumer protection laws or face a fine. How much of a fine are we talking about?
A fine? This is no more than Sergey Brin’s walking-around money. The daunting fine threat given to Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG)? A whopping. unbelievable, unprecedented, bank-breaking … $200,000. Google is being asked (well, since there is a consequence attached, we’ll say it has been demanded) to more specifically address how and why the company gathers information and what information it gets from users. The CNIL also has been seeking specifics as to how long Google holds on to data it collects from users, and what it does with the information once it is deemed ready for disposal from the server.
In its report which issued the deadline, CNIL president Isabelle Falque-Pierrotin said, “The information received in respect to this have so far been too imprecise or vague.” Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG), meanwhile, has been claiming all along that its privacy and data-collection and storage policies are fully compliant with EU law, yet the company agreed to modify its policies last year. The EU determined last fall that the changes weren’t sufficient and gave Google four months to fix them. That time passed and nothing happened, so France went on to enlist help from other EU members like Spain, Italy and Germany, to consider putting some joint pressure on the search-engine firm to be in compliance. While France cannot impose much of a fine on its own due to its country’s laws, Spain can be more stringent if it decides to follow suit with a threat, as Spain could fine Google as much as $1.3 million.
So what was the problem with the modified policy if Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) maintains ongoing compliance?
While the policy changes that Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) implemented last year “simplified and standardized” across all devices and all Google services, there were still critics who claimed that Google did not provide an opt-out option for users other than not signing into any Google platform. And that was seen to be a violation of EU law, which allows for choices by consumers and competition for consumers. Without this opt-out ability, the critics said, Google then had free reign to gather untold amounts of data on users across the entire Internet and can have discretion on how long to store and keep the information. What do you think about this? Is going through the trouble of changing the policies again worth $200,000? What about the PR hit the company can take if it does nto comply? Is that worth the money Google would pay out? Give us your feedback in the comments section elow.