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Google Faces Legal Threat from European Regulators Over Privacy Concerns

Google has been hit with the threat of legal action from the regulators of six European countries, including the UK, over concerns about its privacy policy.

The search company made changes to its privacy policy in March 2012, which has angered the privacy regulators in the UK, France, Germany, Spain, Italy and the Netherlands, but thus far Google has refused to change them back.

European data protection laws are much more stringent than their US counterparts, and research has shown that user concerns about online privacy are extremely high in Europe. Furthermore, European's competition regulators are also in the process of trying to prevent Google, which holds around 95 per cent of the search market, from abusing its monopoly.

The regulators of the six countries have since announced that they will be taking joint legal action against Google, and if the resulting investigation finds the search engine giant has breached European law with its privacy policy changes, they could face six-figure fines from each individual regulator; the UK's Information Commissioner's Office (ICO), for example, can levy fines of up to £500,000.

Although these fines would, in all probability, be just a drop in the ocean to Google, the regulators could also sue in order to block Google from operating in Europe, which would be a highly damaging move.

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


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