Less than a week after shutting down its news service operations in Spain due to what it said were unsustainable fee requirements, Google has been hit with a fine from another European agency. This time, it's a Dutch privacy watchdog levying a penalty payment of up to 15 million euros ($18.6 million) for failure to live up to the country’s privacy requirements.
An Invisible Web
At the heart of the Dutch DPA’s complaint is its assertion that Google routinely combines information on users from a variety of sources to create behavioral profiles that it uses to target ads.
Google might combine information about terms that a user searched for, along with cookies from third-party Web sites that serve Google cookies, location data from its Google Maps mobile app, videos watched on YouTube, and information contained in personal e-mails, according to the watchdog. Users may not even be logged into their Google accounts, and may therefore be unaware how closely the company is tracking them.
“Google catches us in an invisible web of our personal data without telling us and without asking us for our consent,” said Jacob Kohnstamm, chairman of the Dutch DPA. “This has been ongoing since 2012 and we hope our patience will no longer be tested.”
Finally, the Dutch DBA wants Google to provide users with clear indications that YouTube is a Google service. However, the agency did acknowledge that Google appeared to have already addressed that issue, at least in the Netherlands.
The Netherlands is only the latest European country Google has butted heads with recently. In addition to Spain’s efforts to force it to pay Spanish news publications for the right to use their headlines and link to their stories, data protection authorities in Germany, France, Italy and the U.K. have all launched investigations into Google's efforts to protect users’ data. The Dutch DPA has given Google until the end of February 2015 to comply with its requests, at which point it will reevaluate its compliance efforts.
Image credit: Google; Artist's concept.
Posted: 2014-12-15 @ 3:24pm PT
I love the Dutch DPA! Finally a regulator that does something sensible to counter the big spies!