Google will change its privacy policies in the UK to make it clearer how the company's services gather and use data on individuals, after a ruling by the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO).
However, the firm has avoided a fine from the ICO which could have been as high as £500,000. This is in contrast to regulators in France and Spain which issued fines of €150,000 and €900,000 against Google respectively.
The ICO ruling comes after a battle between Google and the regulator dating back to 2012 when Google introduced new privacy policies.
These were widely criticised at the time for failing to make clear to individuals how different Google services gather data on users, and the ICO began investigating whether the policy was in breach of the Data Protection Act.
The ICO has now announced that Google's policies were too vague and has set out a list of requirements to which Google must adhere in addressing the regulator's concerns.
These have been agreed to by Kent Walker, general counsel at Google, in an undertaking with the ICO.
Another notable change is that Google must redesign the Google Account Settings to make it easier to find and amend information provided to Google. These tools must be featured "prominently" in the Dashboard of a user's settings.
Steve Eckersley, head of enforcement at the ICO, said that the agreement is a notable improvement for UK citizens in giving them more control over how Google uses their information.
“Google’s commitment today to make these necessary changes will improve the information UK consumers receive when using its online services and products,” he said.
Eckersley added that the investigation underlined the requirements on businesses to provide clarity with privacy policies under existing data laws.
“Whilst our investigation concluded that this case hasn’t resulted in substantial damage and distress to consumers, it is still important for organisations to properly understand the impact of their actions and the requirement to comply with data protection law,” he said.
“Ensuring that personal data is processed fairly and transparently is a key requirement of the Act."
The European Commission is hoping to have new European data protection laws in place by the end of 2015, in an effort to bring more stability and clarity to businesses and citizens about data protection in the region.
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