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Legal argument on the new privacy policy by Google

On 1st march 2012 Google adopted a new, single privacy policy, which according to the company was introduced to replace over sixty individual policies. The new privacy policy covers multiple products and features, including the enterprise’s research machine, their e-mail service and broadcasting website, and reflects Google’s intention to create a more simple and comprehensive experience for their basic consumers.

A considerable difficulty for the company was to draft a single unabridged policy, which in no terms violates any national law. Whereas it seems that the company succeeded in that area, it, however, appears that Google is still facing some other issues. Under the new policy, the enterprise is gathering a vast amount of personal information from their consumers, without informing them how the data is used and to what extent information collected from their different services is combined into one database. Also the terms explaining these processes are unclear and imprecise.

On European ground this procedure causes some problems. In fact, European law has a severe policy on the collection of personal data. The directive on protection of personal data[1] foresees that before collecting any personal data, the users must be informed about the process of the collection, as well as the precise content, which is gathered. Google’s problem in that matter is highlighted by statistics which have shown that almost 50% of all the Google users have not been clearly informed about the change in privacy policy and the content of the new data collected.

Furthermore the directive on privacy and electronic communications[2] implies that people of whom data is collected must give their full consent. Google although failed to make their users agree on the new policy and hence omitted to obtain their consumers’ consent on the data gathering.

How could Google remedy these imprecisions?  Frist of all, they should ensure consumers understand the reasons behind the data collection. Furthermore, they should guarantee that any information gathered from one service, is kept separate from any other service.

Christophe Nicolay

[1] Directive 95/46/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 24 October 1995 on the protection of individuals with regard to the processing of personal data and on the free movement of such data

[2] Directive 2002/58/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 12 July 2002 concerning the processing of personal data and the protection of privacy in the electronic communications sector

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