Google’s Europe woes get worse with $19M fine threat

Google faces fines of up to 15 million euros ($18.7 million) unless it fixes its privacy breaches in the Netherlands, Dutch regulators warned, as the U.S. search giant continues to get hammered by Europe's lawmakers.

The U.S. firm collects data such as emails and search history to target users with personalized ads without their consent -- in breach of Dutch laws, the country's Data Protection Authority (DPA) said.

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"Google catches us in an invisible web of our personal data without telling us and without asking us for our consent. This has been ongoing since 2012 and we hope our patience will no longer be tested," Jacob Kohnstamm, chairman of the Dutch DPA, said in a statement.

Justin Solomon | CNBC

The DPA has told Google it must ask for the "unambiguous consent" of users to collect their data, clarify their privacy policy, and provide clear information that YouTube is part of Google by February 2015.

"We're disappointed with the Dutch data protection authority's order, especially as we have already made a number of changes to our privacy policy in response to their concerns. However, we've recently shared some proposals for further changes with the European privacy regulators group and we look forward to discussing with them soon," a Google spokesperson said in an emailed statement.

Existential threat?

The Netherlands ruling follows a slew of issues with European authorities in France, Germany, the U.K., Italy and Spain. European Parliament members also voted to separate Google's search engine from its other commercial activities last month.

On top of this, the European Union (EU) introduced the "right to be forgotten rule" which allows users to ask search engines to remove links that contain out-of-date or incorrect information about them.

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Google was also forced to shut its news service in Spain due to a new law that lets publishers charge for their content being shown.

Despite the headwinds, analysts are not worried about a fundamental problem for Google in Europe despite the expectation of further litigation to come.

"The company does not face an existential threat. This type of increased scrutiny is the price you pay for success," Ben Rogoff, fund manager at Polar Capital Partners, whose fund owns Google stock, told CNBC by phone.

"Whenever you have massive share in any market regulators will be interested in that and the debate about this is likely to rage on."

Yahoo challenge

The search engine landscape is not without its challengers to Google's crown. Mozilla's Firefox web browser has dropped Google as its default search engine in favor of Yahoo. Google is currently the default search tool on Apple's Safari browser though this partnership will expire in 2015.

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But analysts said that this will not be a worry for Google whose own Chrome browser is popular and the fact the search giant is focusing on mobile.

"I think it's less important for Google to ensure that it remains the splash page on every browser given the success of Chrome which it owns," Sam Gee, senior technology analyst at Mintel, told CNBC by phone.

"They are more lax about letting those partnerships slip as more browsing is coming from mobile devices and is more important that they be the default browser on mobile and tablets."