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EU needs tough penalties to reign in Google

by on21 January 2014

Bigger fines to make it take notice

EU justice commissioner Viviane Reding said that there need to be tougher penalties as part of plans to reform the data protection laws in Europe, otherwise firms will continue to ride roughshod over the laws as they exist. She noted that while both French and Spanish authorities have fined Google, the amounts represented too small a fraction of the company’s income to stop the US giant.

“Taking Google's 2012 performance figures, the fine in France [€150,000] represents 0.0003 percent of its global turnover. Pocket money,” she said. She said that it was unsurprising to anyone that two whole years after the case emerged, that Google still has not amended its privacy policy.

“People need to see that their rights are enforced in a meaningful way. If a company has broken the rules and failed to mend its ways, this should have serious consequences,” she said.

Under the new proposals, Google would have faced a far harsher penalty that would make it think twice before ignoring data protection laws. It would have faced a fine of €731 million ($1bn). A sum much harder to brush off. Reding added, though, that a stronger regime for data protection would not just be a fear tactic to scare businesses into shape, but it would also help provide them with a competitive edge over rivals.

"Our reform will thus not only open the market to companies, it will also help them to conquer this market by helping to build citizens' confidence. And what is more, strong data protection rules will also give companies with serious privacy policies a competitive edge," she said.

Data protection reforms within the EU have been debated for some time, but an agreement between nations has yet to be reached. The UK is concerned that overly proscriptive laws could damage the economy. Proposals were meant to be in place by 2015 but that date might slip back if member states cannot agree.

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