Feeds

Viv Reding: That French Google fine? Pfft - it's pocket money

My data reform will tackle that, sniffs EC commissioner

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

Brussels' justice commissioner Viviane Reding may still be licking her wounds after her efforts to rewrite the EU's 19-year-old data protection law hit the skids late last year, but it hasn't stopped her from saying that companies like Google should be whacked with much bigger fines.

Her comment came following a decision by the French data watchdog CNIL (Commission Nationale de l’Informatique et des Libertés) earlier this month, which confirmed that Google's failure to comply with DP law over the ad giant's 2012 privacy policy tweak had landed it with a fine of just €150,000.

Mountain View has said it will appeal against the ruling, even though the penalty itself was tiny.

Reding said it was peanuts. Well, in her words, "pocket money".

She added that "people need to see that their rights are enforced in a meaningful way. If a company has broken the rules and failed to mend its ways, this should have serious consequences."

Reding's data protection reform proposals suffered a major setback late last year when the European Council's legal service chief questioned whether its "one-stop shop" measure was lawful, opining that it might breach European citizens' human rights.

The EC's vice president has repeatedly attacked the patchwork nature of data protection legislation across the 28-member state bloc that allows different countries to use different measures and sanctions against firms where privacy compliance is an issue.

She told your correspondent in 2011 that "in future there will be one rule to apply to the whole territory of the European law".

But the clock is ticking, and Reding's beloved draft DP bill - which has already undergone more than 4,000 amendments - now looks unlikely to be passed before May this year when the EU parliamentary elections will take place.

No wonder, then, that the commissioner is using Google as an example where the current law has failed.

During a speech in Munich, Germany, Reding said that member states were being stubborn about her proposed rewrite of DP law by claiming that they were "stalling" the process.

She said of Google:

[T]he company introduced changes to its privacy policy two years ago. Several national data protection authorities in the EU found that this does not comply with existing data protection rules. Google has been sanctioned in two countries, France and Spain, and is under investigation in another four, including Germany.

In Spain, Google was fined the maximum amount of €900,000, while in France – whose data protection authority is one of the most respected and feared in Europe – the fine levied was €150,000, also the highest possible sum.

Taking Google's 2012 performance figures, the fine in France represents 0.0003 per cent of its global turnover. Pocket money.

She then mused: "Is it surprising to anyone that two whole years after the case emerged, it is still unclear whether Google will amend its privacy policy or not?"

Before swiftly returning to her sales pitch:

Europeans need to get serious. And that is why our reform introduces stiff sanctions that can reach as much as 2 per cent of the global annual turnover of a company. In the Google case, that would have meant a fine of €731m ($1bn). A sum much harder to brush off.

At the start of this year, Google's global privacy counsel Peter Fleischer commented in a personal blog post that Reding's "much-ballyhooed, and much-flawed, proposal to re-write [the EU's] privacy laws for the next twenty years [had] collapsed."

He said: "The old draft is dead, and something else will eventually be resurrected in its place."

Fleischer added that he hoped lawmakers would come up with "a better, more modern and more balanced law".

One can only ponder on how Google might measure that balance, however. ®

Intelligent flash storage arrays

More from The Register

next story
WHY did Sunday Mirror stoop to slurping selfies for smut sting?
Tabloid splashes, MP resigns - but there's a BIG copyright issue here
Spies, avert eyes! Tim Berners-Lee demands a UK digital bill of rights
Lobbies tetchy MPs 'to end indiscriminate online surveillance'
How the FLAC do I tell MP3s from lossless audio?
Can you hear the difference? Can anyone?
Inequality increasing? BOLLOCKS! You heard me: 'Screw the 1%'
There's morality and then there's economics ...
Google hits back at 'Dear Rupert' over search dominance claims
Choc Factory sniffs: 'We're not pirate-lovers - also, you publish The Sun'
EU to accuse Ireland of giving Apple an overly peachy tax deal – report
Probe expected to say single-digit rate was unlawful
While you queued for an iPhone 6, Apple's Cook sold shares worth $35m
Right before the stock took a 3.8% dive amid bent and broken mobe drama
prev story

Whitepapers

A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Beginner's guide to SSL certificates
De-mystify the technology involved and give you the information you need to make the best decision when considering your online security options.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.