France threatens to fine Google over privacy

France has threatened to fine Google if it does not improve its privacy policy, which it says currently violates French laws.

The French data protection authority CNIL gave Google a deadline of three months to address a number of key issues that it found were in breach of the French Data Protection Act.

CNIL wants more transparency on Google's processing of user data, a firm definition on data retention periods, a commitment to not proceed with the “potentially unlimited combination of users' data,” agreement to fairly collect and process data from Doubleclick, Analytics and +1 buttons, and confirmation that it will inform users and obtain consent when storing cookies.

France is joined by Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and the UK, all of whom will be clamping down on Google if it does not improve its approach to privacy. Most of the countries in question have recently opened formal proceedings against the search giant, while the UK's Information Commissioner's Office is currently investigating Google's updated privacy policy and will decide on the matter soon.

If Google does not comply, it will face a fine from CNIL of €150,000 (£128,000) for the first failure and a further €300,000 (£256,000) if it still has not addressed the privacy concerns. It will also likely face fines from other national authorities.

Privacy problems are not new to Google, with its Street View snooping perhaps the most well-known example. Its upcoming Google Glass product is also facing intense criticism over the potential invasion of privacy.