Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Going Toe to Toe with Google for Europe ; French Agency Head Puts Foot Down over Data Collection Policies

Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Going Toe to Toe with Google for Europe ; French Agency Head Puts Foot Down over Data Collection Policies

Article excerpt

Facebook, Google and other Internet companies have faced the scrutiny of Isabelle Falque-Pierrotin and her colleagues at the French data protection agency.

Is it impolitic to ask the French privacy regulator a personal question about her Internet habits? Perhaps, but Isabelle Falque- Pierrotin, head of the country's data protection agency, is perfectly forthcoming in her answer.

"Facebook? I follow it but, to be perfectly honest, I don't use it," she said. As for Google, "Of course I use it, but I am prudent about what I do. I don't give away any family secrets."

Both Facebook and Google, along with a range of other Internet companies, have faced the scrutiny of Ms. Falque-Pierrotin and her colleagues at the Commission nationale de l'informatique et des libertes, also known as the CNIL.

The agency has taken the lead role among the 27 European authorities on data protection in an investigation of a new privacy policy that Google introduced this year to streamline the previously separate practices for data use in dozens of Google services. Last month, CNIL ordered the company to make changes to the policy or face disciplinary action.

European privacy officials worry that the mining and blending of data across different Google services, like the search engine and the YouTube video site, could result in privacy violations.

In an interview last week at the CNIL headquarters in Paris, Ms. Falque- Pierrotin said she wanted Google to report back with proposed solutions by February, nearly a year after the new policy was introduced. If the proposals are insufficient, she said, "we will move on to a sanctions phase."

"This is not about taking the scalp of a big company," she said. "It's about pushing them to come into conformity. If a company that is at the heart of the digital economy cannot come up with a satisfactory solution, that is very serious."

Google has said it has been reviewing a letter from Ms. Falque- Pierrotin to its chief executive, Larry Page. The company has consistently maintained that the new policy respects E.U. law.

CNIL has the power to fine companies as much as EUR 300,000, or about $382,000, for violations. …

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