EU data protection chiefs to order Google to 'unravel' privacy policy

The European Union will order Google to ‘unravel’ its privacy policy on Tuesday, the Guardian has reported.

According to the newspaper, France’s data protection authority, the CNIL, and other EU data protection commissioners will announce that the privacy policy changes introduced by Google earlier this year breach EU regulations by failing to give users the option to opt out of having their data consolidated across Google’s products.

The privacy policy in question is a relatively new practice introduced by the search giant in March, in which Google began pooling individual user data across its various services - search, Gmail, YouTube, and Google+, among others - in order to better target search results and advertising. Though the company promoted the consolidation of data as a simplification of its privacy rules, European regulators immediately launched an inquiry into the legality of the practice.

Accordingly, the search giant will be ordered to pull back the changes and revert to its original policy, said Chris Watson, a privacy expert at London law firm CMS McKenna.

"By putting the CNIL in charge of this, the EU was going for blood," said Watson, pointing to the agency’s reputation for being particularly aggressive in the data protection matters. "It was a declaration of intent."

"The point is that Google is an international company which is leveraging its power in the browser and its other services in a way that affects national businesses all over the EU. There's great political importance in the data protection commissioners doing something, because if they think there's a breach and they don't do anything about it, what's the point of having them?" he added.

Meanwhile, Google is still embroiled in a defence of its practices in the face of antitrust allegations brought forth by the EU’s competition regulatory body. EU competition commissioner Joaquin Almunia recently threatened that the company could face official charges if it does not take more decisive action to resolve the issue.

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