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Google ordered to rewrite privacy policy by European watchdogs

The privacy watchdogs of the UK, Germany and Italy have told Google to rewrite its privacy policy (opens in new tab) in Europe or face legal sanctions.

Last year the company united the privacy policies for all products (opens in new tab), allowing unified data collection across platforms such as Gmail, YouTube, Google+ and Maps.

The changes were implemented despite a warning from France's data privacy commission that the new policy may be unlawful.

The UK's Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) has now warned Google that "its updated privacy policy raises serious questions about its compliance with the UK Data Protection Act."

The ICO says it is particularly concerned that the updated policy does not provide enough information for UK users to understand how their data is being used across the company's different products.

The Commissioner has given Google until 20 September to take "necessary action to improve the policies compliance", after which there will be the possibility of legal enforcement.

The action has been taken following a consultation with 27 data protection authorities from across Europe.

Concurrently, Hamburg's influential Commissioner for Data Protection, Professor Johannes Caspar said the policy "violates the company's commitment to full transparency about the use and handling of the data."

He also announced plans to call Google into a legal hearing to comment on the allegations.

The French and Spanish equivalents sent similar letters last month, with France's CNIL threatening fines if Google did not comply.

In a statement, Google said: "Our privacy policy respects European law and allows us to create simpler, more effective services. We have engaged fully with the authorities involved throughout this process, and we'll continue to do so going forward."

When the new policy was announced at the beginning of 2012, Google said change was needed to help with product integration and so the company could "create a beautifully simple, intuitive user experience."

The action comes as American NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden recently revealed the extent to which the US Government has been collecting data (opens in new tab) from Internet giants such as Google, Microsoft and Apple.

This week the European commission warned that European businesses may abandon US Internet and cloud service providers (opens in new tab) over the scandal.

Tomas is co-founder of Lucky Pilgrim, a team of journalists, photographers and art directors who connect brands to audiences through words, imagery and design. He was formerly editorial director at Chapel and managing editor at Courier magazine, and was a writer for ITProPortal as well as The Independent, EastLondonLines, The Sunday Times Magazine, and Croon.