German privacy regulator begins action against Google over privacy policy changes

A German data protection authority has begun a formal action against Google over changes the company made to its privacy policy last year. The French privacy regulator announced a similar action last month.

The Hamburg Commissioner for Data Protection and Freedom of Information announced Thursday that it will join other European privacy regulators in taking action against the company.

The French National Commission on Computing and Liberty (CNIL) announced last month that it had given Google three months to respond to its complaints or face court action, after the company repeatedly rejected requests to reverse changes it made to its privacy policy in March 2012.

Spain's privacy regulator too has notified Google of its intention to impose sanctions if Google does not comply with Spanish law.

In Germany, the company has been given until mid-August to make its case at a hearing with the commissioner, Johannes Caspar.

Users must be clearly informed about the purposes for which Google is processing their data, Caspar said in a statement Thursday. Google's new privacy policy is too vague about the nature, scope and purpose of its data processing, allowing the company to do what it wishes, he said. The company must set clear limits on what it will do with users' data, and allow users to decide how the company merges and analyzes data concerning them obtained from different Google services.

Peter Sayer covers open source software, European intellectual property legislation and general technology breaking news for IDG News Service. Send comments and news tips to Peter at peter_sayer@idg.com.

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