The CNIL announced in a press release on Thursday that it has issued a formal notice to Google Inc. that requires the search engine to provide clear and sufficient information to users about how their data is being used. In particular, the Paris based regulator wants Google to:

  • Define specified and explicit purposes to allow users to understand practically the processing of their personal data;
  • Inform users by application of the provisions of Article 32 of the French Data Protection Act, in particular with regard to the purposes pursued by the controller of the processing implemented;
  • Define retention periods for the personal data processed that do not exceed the period necessary for the purposes for which they are collected;
  • Not proceed, without legal basis, with the potentially unlimited combination of users’ data;
  • Fairly collect and process passive users’ data, in particular with regard to data collected using the “Doubleclick” and “Analytics” cookies, “+1” buttons or any other Google service available on the visited page; and
  • Inform users and then obtain their consent in particular before storing cookies on their terminal.

By way of background, from February to October 2012, the Article 29 Working Party (“WP29”) carried out an investigation into Google’s new privacy policy to assess its compliance with the European Data Protection Directive. On the basis of its findings, published in a report on 16 October 2012, the WP29 asked Google to implement its recommendations within four months. According to Thursday’s press release, Google has not implemented any significant compliance measures since then.

France is thus the first national regulator to take concrete actions against Google in relation to its new Privacy Policy, which essentially allowed Google to combine user data from its various services. In the meantime, other regulators have also started formal proceedings against Google and it is expected that the CNIL notice will be the first of several enforcement measures by national  Data Protection Authorities (“DPAs”): the national regulators of Spain, Italy, UK, The Netherlands, and the regional DPA of Hamburg in Germany have either already started formal proceedings or are strongly considering it.