Still no move by Brit data cops over Google's 2012 privacy slurp

Even the Italian databinieri have got their boots on now, but not the ICO


Britain's data cops are still investigating Google's sneaky privacy policy tweak from last year, even though many of its counterparts elsewhere in Europe have already taken action against the advertising giant.

On Monday, Italy's regulator warned Google that it had 18 months to comply with the Rome's demands or else face fines and, reportedly, possible criminal proceedings.

The Italian watchdog said that Google's decision, in 2012, to swiftly cut and amalgamate around 60 privacy policies into one to allow the company to slurp data from its users across its vast online estate of services from Gmail to YouTube, as well as its ubiquitous search engine, failed to adequately address Italian data law.

Google has been told that it is not allowed to use the data it scoops up from it services for "profiling purposes" unless it obtains consent from individuals and makes it clear that it plans to use that information for "commercial purposes".

The Italian databinieri added that Google "will have to submit to the Guarantor, by September 30, 2014, a verification protocol, which will become binding once signed".

Google said in a statement to The Register:

We've engaged fully with the Italian DPA throughout this process to explain our privacy policy and how it allows us to create simpler, more effective services, and we'll continue to do so. We'll be reading their report closely to determine next steps.

In March 2012, Mountain View declined to allow netizens to opt out of the changes it had controversially made to its privacy policy. The outrage sparked a joint regulatory investigation from a number of European Union countries, which was led by France's Commission Nationale de l’Informatique et des Libertés (CNIL).

In January this year, the CNIL data gendarmes lightly tickled Google with a minuscule €150,000 fine that the then-Brussels' justice commissioner Viviane Reding found to be laughable. The colossal ads platform was also ordered to post a 48-hour notice on its Google.fr page to alert French folk to the fact that a penalty had been levied against it for violating data privacy laws.

Late last year, Google was fined a piddling €900,000 for three separate breaches of Spain's Data Protection Act in relation to the privacy policy tweak.

That penalty came after data cops in the Netherlands had similarly concluded that Google had breached its DP law.

Now that Italy has made its regulatory intentions clear to Google, Germany and the UK are the only two EU countries left either to take action or simply dismiss the case.

Germany is famously tough on data breaches: Britain's Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) much less so.

The laid-back British data bobbies have been repeatedly contacted by El Reg regarding the probe. In January we were told that a decision was expected soon.

We reminded the ICO - which originally warned Google it had three months to sort out its privacy policy - that it had promised us "a decision wasn't too far off" at the start of this year. But a spokesman told us today that the investigation was "still ongoing, I’m afraid." ®


Other stories you might like

  • Lonestar plans to put datacenters in the Moon's lava tubes
    How? Founder tells The Register 'Robots… lots of robots'

    Imagine a future where racks of computer servers hum quietly in darkness below the surface of the Moon.

    Here is where some of the most important data is stored, to be left untouched for as long as can be. The idea sounds like something from science-fiction, but one startup that recently emerged from stealth is trying to turn it into a reality. Lonestar Data Holdings has a unique mission unlike any other cloud provider: to build datacenters on the Moon backing up the world's data.

    "It's inconceivable to me that we are keeping our most precious assets, our knowledge and our data, on Earth, where we're setting off bombs and burning things," Christopher Stott, founder and CEO of Lonestar, told The Register. "We need to put our assets in place off our planet, where we can keep it safe."

    Continue reading
  • Conti: Russian-backed rulers of Costa Rican hacktocracy?
    Also, Chinese IT admin jailed for deleting database, and the NSA promises no more backdoors

    In brief The notorious Russian-aligned Conti ransomware gang has upped the ante in its attack against Costa Rica, threatening to overthrow the government if it doesn't pay a $20 million ransom. 

    Costa Rican president Rodrigo Chaves said that the country is effectively at war with the gang, who in April infiltrated the government's computer systems, gaining a foothold in 27 agencies at various government levels. The US State Department has offered a $15 million reward leading to the capture of Conti's leaders, who it said have made more than $150 million from 1,000+ victims.

    Conti claimed this week that it has insiders in the Costa Rican government, the AP reported, warning that "We are determined to overthrow the government by means of a cyber attack, we have already shown you all the strength and power, you have introduced an emergency." 

    Continue reading
  • China-linked Twisted Panda caught spying on Russian defense R&D
    Because Beijing isn't above covert ops to accomplish its five-year goals

    Chinese cyberspies targeted two Russian defense institutes and possibly another research facility in Belarus, according to Check Point Research.

    The new campaign, dubbed Twisted Panda, is part of a larger, state-sponsored espionage operation that has been ongoing for several months, if not nearly a year, according to the security shop.

    In a technical analysis, the researchers detail the various malicious stages and payloads of the campaign that used sanctions-related phishing emails to attack Russian entities, which are part of the state-owned defense conglomerate Rostec Corporation.

    Continue reading
  • FTC signals crackdown on ed-tech harvesting kid's data
    Trade watchdog, and President, reminds that COPPA can ban ya

    The US Federal Trade Commission on Thursday said it intends to take action against educational technology companies that unlawfully collect data from children using online educational services.

    In a policy statement, the agency said, "Children should not have to needlessly hand over their data and forfeit their privacy in order to do their schoolwork or participate in remote learning, especially given the wide and increasing adoption of ed tech tools."

    The agency says it will scrutinize educational service providers to ensure that they are meeting their legal obligations under COPPA, the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act.

    Continue reading
  • Mysterious firm seeks to buy majority stake in Arm China
    Chinese joint venture's ousted CEO tries to hang on - who will get control?

    The saga surrounding Arm's joint venture in China just took another intriguing turn: a mysterious firm named Lotcap Group claims it has signed a letter of intent to buy a 51 percent stake in Arm China from existing investors in the country.

    In a Chinese-language press release posted Wednesday, Lotcap said it has formed a subsidiary, Lotcap Fund, to buy a majority stake in the joint venture. However, reporting by one newspaper suggested that the investment firm still needs the approval of one significant investor to gain 51 percent control of Arm China.

    The development comes a couple of weeks after Arm China said that its former CEO, Allen Wu, was refusing once again to step down from his position, despite the company's board voting in late April to replace Wu with two co-chief executives. SoftBank Group, which owns 49 percent of the Chinese venture, has been trying to unentangle Arm China from Wu as the Japanese tech investment giant plans for an initial public offering of the British parent company.

    Continue reading
  • SmartNICs power the cloud, are enterprise datacenters next?
    High pricing, lack of software make smartNICs a tough sell, despite offload potential

    SmartNICs have the potential to accelerate enterprise workloads, but don't expect to see them bring hyperscale-class efficiency to most datacenters anytime soon, ZK Research's Zeus Kerravala told The Register.

    SmartNICs are widely deployed in cloud and hyperscale datacenters as a means to offload input/output (I/O) intensive network, security, and storage operations from the CPU, freeing it up to run revenue generating tenant workloads. Some more advanced chips even offload the hypervisor to further separate the infrastructure management layer from the rest of the server.

    Despite relative success in the cloud and a flurry of innovation from the still-limited vendor SmartNIC ecosystem, including Mellanox (Nvidia), Intel, Marvell, and Xilinx (AMD), Kerravala argues that the use cases for enterprise datacenters are unlikely to resemble those of the major hyperscalers, at least in the near term.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022