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Google breaches Dutch data privacy laws, says watchdog

29 Nov 2013
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Google's handling of its users' data has been found to be in breach of Dutch privacy laws, following an investigation from the country's privacy watchdog.

Following a seven-month investigation, the Dutch Data Protection Authority (DPA) has asked Google to attend a meeting to discuss its concerns, which relate to the way Google handles user data across its services.

The DPA explained in its report that Google utilises customer data from one service and applies it to another, and does not clearly enough explain to users how it does so. "Google does not adequately inform users about the combining of their personal data from all these different services," a DPA statement read.

"On top of that, Google does not offer users any (prior) options to consent to or reject the examined data processing activities. The consent, required by law, for the combining of personal data from different Google services cannot be obtained by accepting general (privacy) terms of service."

In a statement seen by Reuters, Google responded: "Our privacy policy respects European law and allows us to create simpler, more effective services. We have engaged fully with the Dutch DPA throughout this process and will continue to do so going forward."

Google has found itself in hot water with data protection authorities before, most recently with its Gmail service. In a court filing following complaints from US rights group Consumer Watchdog about the firm's use of advertising based on the contents of users' emails, Google said users should not expect total email privacy.

"Just as a sender of a letter to a business colleague cannot be surprised that the recipient's assistant opens the letter, people who use web-based email today cannot be surprised if their emails are processed by the recipient's [email provider] in the course of delivery," the statement said.

Microsoft, meanwhile, has turned to poking fun at Google and its perceived privacy failings with its "Scroogled" campaign. The firm produces regular videos on the topic and has even created a range of Scroogled merchandise in time for Christmas.

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Michael Passingham

Michael Passingham joined V3 as a reporter in June 2013. Prior to working at V3, Michael spent time at computing magazine PC Pro. Michael covers IT skills, social media, tech startups and also produces V3's video content.

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