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Google threatened with legal action by European privacy regulators over privacy policy

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15 months after Google controversially altered its’ privacy policy to unify and maximise their data collection on individuals so it could market advertisements to them in an increasingly creepy manner, European watchdogs have delivered an ultimatum.

Privacy authorities in the UK, Germany and Italy have told Google to rewrite its terms Europe or face legal action. This comes after similar complaints by France and Spain to the internet giant and casts a formal spotlight over the company’s worrying handling of private information.

Google has already run into problems in Europe over its collection of Wi-Fi data, including usernames, passwords and web page viewing while collecting photos for its Street View system - a practice so fundamentally wrong and containing no contract whatsoever that it defies belief. With Google Glass on the horizon that effectively allows personalised spying on the identity of strangers, it is critically important that the software giant is yoked to some kind of code of practice.

The Information Commissioner's Office in the UK says that the new privacy policy, introduced in March 2012, raises "serious questions" about compliance with the UK Data Protection Act, and has given Google until 20 September to change it

The German equivalent, headed up by Professor Johannes Caspar, announced his intention to hold a legal hearing because the new policy "violates the company's commitment to full transparency about the use and handling of the data".

Google said in a statement: "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."

Nick Pickles, director of privacy campaign groupBig Brother Watch, said: "This is the latest confirmation that consumers are being kept in the dark about what data on us Google collects and how that data is used.

"Google ignored concerns its policy broke the law and put its profit before the legal rights of British citizens.

"The main issue is that sanctions must be strong enough to make Google take real action, rather than the previous meagre penalties that are seen as a cost of doing business. Regulators around the world must act to ensure concrete steps are taken to uphold peoples’ rights and stop Google routinely trampling on our privacy."

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