Google's Privacy Policy Overhaul Under Attack

Google is set launch its new privacy policy on Thursday, consolidating 60 guidelines into a single one, but the Internet giant is facing major challenges from regulators and consumer organizations.

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The changes mean Google is consolidating the guidelines to include YouTube, Gmail and Google+.

Consumer organizations say it is unfair to combine data from all of its services into a single profile without the user’s consent and with little opportunity for users to opt-out.

France’s data protection authority has already said that the new guidelines are in breach of European Union laws, and the regulator will lead a Europe-wide investigation.

The European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, is launching new regulations to update those datinf from 1995 that it hopes will better protect consumers.

“The personal data belong to the person, and they have to decide what happens to their data, so companies have to inform individuals what they are going to do with the data,” Viviane Reding, vice president of the European Commission and EU commissioner for justice, told CNBC on Thursday.

Consumers have a right to know how companies will process their data and whether they are going to sell it to a third party, she said, adding that the company can use it only if individual consents.

The Trans Atlantic Consumer Dialogue, a consumer organization that develops and agrees on joint consumer policy recommendations to the U.S. government and the European Union, on Tuesday night called on Google to suspend its plans to modify its privacy policy.

“In policy recommendations that TACD has made to our governments and businesses, we have advocated for respect for privacy and the rights of consumers to control the collection and use of their personal information.

Google’s plan flies in the face of these recommendations,” TACD said in an open letter to Google CEO Larry Page.

“You record virtually every event of a Google user, in far more detail than consumers understand,” the TACD said.

Reding stressed that the data collected by companies like Google do not belong to them. But many individuals simply do not know what is happening to their data.

“For the time being, you have dozens of pages of small print. People then find they have been cheated,” Reding said.

She wants to give national regulators more power to impose fines on companies that breach EU laws on data protection.

In the future, the French regulator would be able to apply a fine of up to 2 percent of world turnover of a company which does not comply with the rules, she said.

“A fine of up to 560 million euros ($746 million), there things becomes serious,” Reding said.