The UK Information Commissioners Office has given Google until the 20th September to change its privacy policy after recent reviews of updates to their privacy policy found that the site may be breaching the UK Data Protection Act.

The anticipated move by the UK data protection watchdog falls in line with other European countries such as Spain and France who have threatened to fine Google hundreds of thousands of pounds for violating data protection rights. Google have had recently had similar complaints from the US congress and refused requests to change its privacy policy, bringing doubts on the effects of attempts by European officials to change the companies policy.

In spring 2012 Google changed its global privacy policies by reducing 70 separate privacy policies into one document. An ICO spokesperson said it made it “no longer possible to find out what’s going on with your information across Google’s products and services”. Changes to the privacy settings have allowed Google to combine the personal data of customers across Google products including Google search and YouTube, creating a single identity for Google users.

The policy change allowed Google to create a larger profile of customer’s tastes, likes and dislikes across its platforms. This was reiterated by Google in a BlogSpot post; “we’ll treat you as a single user across all our products, which will mean a simpler, more intuitive Google experience”. Prior to the privacy policy changes Google couldn’t combine information from YouTube and vice versa.

This quickly led to a European investigation into customer’s data protection led by French data protection organisation CNIL. CNIL warned Google that they had broken French law and could face a fine of up to €150,000 if they didn’t change their privacy policy. Similar actions were taken by Spanish, German and UK officials. A UK ICO spokesperson said that Google needed to “explicitly inform their users about how their data is used across its products and services”.

Many people have become increasingly concerned about the personal information they share online and the digital footprint they leave online and the online reputation they perceive. Companies such as Igniyte specialise in online reputation management.

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