European Internet Users Urge Regulators to "Rein in Google" on Privacy Concerns

May 19, 2013, 11:00 ET from Olswang LLP

LONDON, May 19, 2013 /PRNewswire/ --

Internet users have instructed lawyers to press European internet regulators to take robust action to address Google's repeated privacy breaches once and for all and to ensure Google complies with European laws in the future.

London-based law firm Olswang has written to the regulators, setting set out the concerns of consumers about Google's consolidation of personal data.  The internet giant is pooling data from all of its products, giving it a comprehensive record of each internet user's preferences.

Ross McKean, Olswang partner, argues that regulators must do more to ensure that companies stay within the law:

"All companies must comply with data protection laws when collecting users' data, and Google is no exception. Despite having received detailed complaints from European regulators about its handling of internet users' personal information, Google seems determined to ignore these and continue its plans to create comprehensive files on consumers, pulling together data from a variety of sources, in many cases without any apparent legal justification.

"The maximum fine the Information Commissioner can impose on Google for this action is just half a million pounds.  Google makes that much money from its operations in just one country in less than two hours.  It simply is not a deterrent."

Consumers in the UK have already launched a legal action against Google for breaching their privacy by installing cookies to track their online activities despite specifically stating they did not want to be tracked. Similar actions in France and Spain are being considered.  In the United States, the company agreed to pay $22.5million to the US Federal Trade Commission to settle a related action.  The company has faced heavy criticism for other breaches, including the illegal gathering of data such as banking details from home computers whilst developing its Street View product.  Campaigners like Marc Bradshaw say that enough is enough:

"I don't trust Google on privacy.  They seem think they can behave however they like because they have nothing to fear from regulators.  The regulators need to take extraordinary action to deal with a company determined to ignore users' legal rights. 

They and government need to ask themselves why Google is doing this so frequently and why it is ignoring the laws of this country.  Something must be done to rein in Google and we believe our proposed sanctions for historic and ongoing breaches of privacy should be enforced."

The sanctions proposed by the campaigners include:

  • Clear warnings on Google's search home page explaining how and why data is collected and tracked;
  • Reversing Google's merger of all data across its services or, if that isn't possible, deleting all illegally merged data, with deletion independently verified; and
  • A prominent apology to be placed on the Google search home page.

Marc Bradshaw continues: "Google is one of the largest companies in the world with huge financial resources and access to the most expensive lawyers around the world.  It really shouldn't be down to ordinary people to have to fight to ensure they comply with the law.  Regulators must rise to this challenge and rein in Google.  If they fail, every internet user in this country will suffer and the right to online privacy could be lost forever."


Please do not contact the Olswang Press Office for further information on this statement.

Notes to editors

Olswang LLP is an international law firm and a European leader in technology, media, telecommunications and real estate. The firm comprises of over 700 people including more than 110 partners, across eight international offices. Olswang is part of a 'best friends' network of leading independent law firms throughout the world. 

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