On October 15, 2012, twenty-four out of twenty-seven European Union data regulators signed and submitted a letter asking Google to reassess its data collection process, in order to meet EU laws. The letter contains twelve recommendations, which the EU came to, after asking the French data regulation authority CNIL to assess Google’s policies. The investigations were helmed by the EU’s Article 29 Working Party, which is made up of representatives from all member states. The recommendations include sensitive topics, such as Google’s use of credit card details, information related to the users’ location and their history of Internet browsing.
Shortly after Google started rolling out the changes and informing its users that they would have to reconfirm the fact that they agree with the new Terms of Service, the European Union effectively came out and asked for a bit of a ‘time out’. In early February 2012, European Union regulators asked Google to stop implementing the ToS changes, until it investigates them properly. The matter was addressed by the Data Protection Working Party within the European Union, which sent a formal letter to Google, asking them to stop whatever it was they were doing. The letter, officially addressed to Google’s Larry Page, said that the EU wishes “to check the possible consequences for the protection of the personal data.”
There followed a clash of the titans: as Google spokesperson Al Verney confirmed that the company would cooperate with the EU (although it isn’t legally mandated to do so), EU data protection commissioner Viviane Reding stated that the union was making great strides in its efforts to assert authority in the online field. It was also Reding who eventually came out to confirm that the terms of service implemented by Google early on during the year breached European laws.