European, US regulators eye action against Google

EU regulators are expected to order Google to undo changes to its privacy policy, as American authorities consider antitrust action.

European, US regulators eye action against Google

In Europe, Google is under pressure over changes to its privacy policy, while both EU and US regulators are considering competition issues over its search dominance.

Sources told The Guardian that the French data watchdog, the CNIL, will order Google to roll back changes to its privacy policies, which saw services’ policies combined to allow data to be shared across them. Users weren’t given any way to opt out.

The CNIL has been meeting with data regulators from across the EU, and will announce its plans tomorrow, the report added.

The move comes as Google also faces action from the EU over its control of the search market. Last week, reports suggested Google had offered to label its own services in search, to make it clear to users, but it wasn’t clear if that was seen as enough to stave off antitrust action.

US cases

A similar case is coming to a head in the US. The majority of top decision-makers at the Federal Trade Commission believe that an antitrust case should be brought against Google, meaning the search giant could soon be headed into tough negotiations, three people familiar with the matter said.

Four of the FTC commissioners have become convinced after more than a year of investigation that Google illegally used its dominance of the search market to hurt its rivals, while one commissioner is skeptical, the sources said.

All three declined to be named to protect working relationships. Two of the sources said a decision on how to proceed could come in late November or early December.

A long list of companies has been complaining to the FTC, arguing that the agency should crack down on Google. During a congressional hearing in September 2011, Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt denied that the company manipulated its search results. “May I simply say that I can assure you we’ve not cooked anything,” he told the Senate Judiciary Committee’s antitrust panel.

If the agency finds that Google broke the law, the FTC and Google could hammer out a settlement that resolves the issues or, if settlement negotiations fail, the matter could end up in a lengthy, expensive court fight.

This is not the first run-in that Google has had with the agency. In August, Google was forced to pay $22.5 million to settle charges it bypassed the privacy settings of customers using Apple’s Safari browser. The practice was in violation of a 2011 consent decree with the FTC over a botched roll out of the now defunct social network Buzz.

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