Google fined £124,000 for breaching French privacy laws

After months of pleading and threatening, a French privacy watchdog has finally fined Google €150,000 (£124,000) for what it says is a violation of the French Data Protection Act.

France's CNIL (Commission nationale de l'informatique et des libertés) also ordered the search giant to publish an official bulletin on its Google.fr homepage about the fine within eight days of the 3 January notification — leaving Google with three more days to consent.

At issue is an update to Google's privacy policy, which went into effect 1 March, 2012, and consolidated about 70 privacy policies for all of Google's products into one.

As many users noticed, the change also consolidated multiple product profiles - YouTube, Blogger, Google Search, etc. - into one profile across all services.

It was the policy consolidation that irked privacy advocates. According to is considered personal, which, based on French law, is illegal. the CNIL, Google does not sufficiently inform users of the conditions under which their personal information is handled by the search giant.

Additionally, Google is accused of not obtaining user consent before storing cookies, failing to define retention periods applicable to its processed data, and permitting itself to combine all collected data across all services.

In February 2012, CNIL, as part of the EU's Article 29 Working Party asked Google to "pause" its update, but Google refused and the change went into effect the next month. By October, CNIL issued several recommendations for how Google might improve its policies, but no changes were made.

Almost a year ago, the French commission criticised Google for not responding to its privacy-related inquiries in a timely fashion, then proceeded to threaten sanctions and imposed a three-month deadline in June. And still Google refused to comply.

Enter the €150,000 penalty — the highest that the CNIL has issued to date.

"It is justified by the number and the seriousness of the breaches stated in the case," the agency said in a release.

Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In December, Spanish regulators fined Google £750,000 over the same issue. Dutch privacy watchdogs have also slammed Google for spinning "an invisible web of our personal data without our consent."