Even though Italy’s “Google tax” is not likely to pass the scrutiny of the E.U., Google is still facing legal charges across Europe — the latest of which comes in the form of a fine from Spain. The Agencia Española de Protección de Datos (AEPD) — Spain’s privacy watchdog — has cited Google’s data collection practices as being in violation of local laws. Some of the charges include gathering data for unspecified uses and keeping it for indefinite amounts of time, in addition to filtering emails without informing users as to how their content is being used to target them with advertisements.
The AEPD’s statement says, “Inspections have shown that Google compiles personal information through close to one hundred services and products it offers in Spain, without providing in many cases the adequate information about the data that is being gathered, why it is gathered and without obtaining the consent of the owners.”
Google obviously insists upon its transparency and honest engagement with the Spanish authorities, but this fine is a product of the country’s privacy watchdog’s several month-long investigation.
Back in June, the AEPD said it was considering fining Google upwards of €300,000 in the initial investigations, but the AEPD’s December 19 announcement calls for €900,000 — the equivalent of US$1.23 million. The nearly tripled fine is a result of multiple charges against the company with €300,000 for each violation.
Of course, this decision by Spanish authorities mirrors the global concern for personal data safety and regulation in the wake of Edward Snowden’s information leaks about the NSA. And while Spain is the first European country to actually fine Google, other countries have been performing their own investigations for months since June’s revelations about U.S. data collection procedures. Dutch data protection regulators found Google in violation of the Netherlands’ privacy laws, but no fine has been levied. And French investigators have performed their own probe into Google’s activity, calling for reform of its practices before issuing penalties against the internet company.
While the NSA leaks were an instigator for more rigorous investigation into Google’s data practices, they were not the initial mover of European skepticism of the company’s privacy policies; the aforementioned countries (in addition to the U.K., Germany, and Italy) had all initiated action to explore regulating Google back in April. Its policies rattled regulators even then, so it’s no wonder a crackdown in fines is beginning even as Google defends its data practices on its own shores.