Google Gets Major Euro Slap From EU Privacy Commission



The European Union’s privacy commission issued a sharp reprimand to Google, ordering the company to change its way of informing people how their data is being used, or face sanctions, the Financial Times reported.

Le Monde reported that the decision was unanimous among the privacy officials from all 27 EU countries that make up the commission.

In a three-page letter to Google CEO Larry Page, the Commission on the Collection of Private Data wrote that Google did not inform its users about how much information was being collected. The commission determined that the company was combining the data “excessively” with no real oversight and keeping it for long periods, Le Monde reported.

Google’s March 1, 2012 rollout of new privacy conditions, which users were forced to agree to in order to access certain Google services, including email, sparked the months-long investigation.

According to German weekly Die Zeit, Google told users that it would be agglomerating all their information gathered from its many Internet services, including email, search, its social network Google Plus, and Google’s online Docs and Calendars.

Although Google says this data is kept anonymous, the enormous reach of the company, which touces almost every Internet user in some way, has raised intense concern among some Europeans.

Each European Union country has its own privacy office, and European privacy laws are stricter than those in the United States. The French National Committee on Computers and Freedom CNIL or Commission nationale de l'informatique et des libertés said Tuesday that Google’s cooperation with the EU commission had been “mediocre,” Le Monde reported.

The president of CNIL said that Google gave vague answers to specific questions, did not supply information about its “60” previous versions of its privacy policy, and used the conditional “we could” in the documents submitted instead of making firm commitments about its future behavior.

“Google did not demonstrate to us that it obeys the law on computers and privacy, nor that it would commit to respecting it,” she said, adding that the decision to reprimand Google for infringement of privacy was unanimous by all 27 EU national commissions.

European law requires that as little information as possible be collected about the user, and also that the user be able to control his or her own information. “The protection of the individual’s fundamental rights and freedoms overrides Google’s legitimate interests to collect such a large data base, and no contract justifies this large combination of data,” the commission wrote.

The investigation found that users are not asked for permission for their data to be stored, nor is there any way for them to opt out, Die Zeit reports. If Google does not comply with EU law within three to four months, the company will face sanctions. But the sanctions would have to be imposed by each country acting for itself, notes Die Zeit.

Google, whose motto is “Don’t Be Evil,” “does not understand the excitement,” Die Welt quipped in its headline.

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A Mother In Spain Denied Child Custody Because She Lives In Rural Area

A court in Spain usurps custody of the one-year-old boy living with his mother in the "deep" part of the Galicia region, forced to instead live with his father in the southern city of Marbella, which the judge says is "cosmopolitan" with good schools and medical care. Women's rights groups have taken up the mother's case.

A child in Galician countryside

Laure Gautherin

A Spanish court has ordered the withdrawal of a mother's custody of her one-year-old boy because she is living in the countryside in northwestern Spain, where the judge says the child won't have "opportunities for the proper development of his personality."

The case, reported Monday in La Voz de Galicia, has sparked outrage from a women's rights association but has also set off reactions from politicians of different stripes across the province of Galicia, defending the values of rural life.

Judge María Belén Ureña Carazo, of the family court of Marbella, a city on the southern coast of 141,000 people, has ordered the toddler to stay with father who lives in the city rather than with his mother because she was living in "deep Galicia" where the child would lack opportunities to "grow up in a happy environment."

Front page of La Voz de Galicia - October 25, 2021

Front page of La Voz de Galicia - Monday 25 October, 2021

La Voz de Galicia

Better in a "cosmopolitan" city?

The judge said Marbella, where the father lives, was a "cosmopolitan city" with "a good hospital" as well as "all kinds of schools" and thus provided a better environment for the child to thrive.

The mother has submitted a formal complaint to the General Council of the Judiciary that the family court magistrate had acted with "absolute contempt," her lawyer told La Voz de Galicia.

The mother quickly accumulated support from local politicians and civic organizations. The Clara Campoamor association described the judge's arguments as offensive, intolerable and typical of "an ignorant person who has not traveled much."

The Xunta de Galicia, the regional government, has addressed the case, saying that any place in Galicia meets the conditions to educate a minor. The Socialist party politician Pablo Arangüena tweeted that "it would not hurt part of the judiciary to spend a summer in Galicia."

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