Google Inc. lost most of a challenge to a German regulator’s order that limits how it can combine user data that would allow the company to divine customers’ personal preferences, marital status and sexual orientation.
Johannes Caspar, Hamburg’s privacy watchdog, only heeded minor parts of Google’s objection to an order issued in September, he said in an interview Wednesday. The company is obligated to either limit how it uses German customer data or get user consent, he said.
“It would certainly be the best solution if Google would now implement the order,” said Caspar, who is among the region’s more aggressive privacy regulators.
Google, Facebook Inc. and other technology companies are under increasing pressure from regulators to ensure that privacy rights are respected as computer users unwittingly reveal more data online through shopping, social networking and web searches.
Google can attempt to overturn today’s decision in court. Klaas Flechsig, a spokesman for Google in Hamburg, said the company was reviewing what steps to take.
Google told European regulators at a meeting at the end of March that it is willing to make “substantial changes” in its services to meet data-protection concerns, Caspar said in an e-mailed statement.
“This suggests that the combined effort of regulatory authorities at the European level are making an impact on the U.S. company,” Caspar said.
France’s data protection authority led the probe on behalf of the EU group to review whether Google’s revisions to its policies violated the bloc’s rules.
The Dutch data privacy regulator in December said Google may be fined as much as 15 million euros ($16.3 million) if it failed to meet a February deadline to comply with the country’s demands. The Dutch regulator said Wednesday in an e-mail that it hasn’t yet issued any fines and is in the process of assessing “if the conditions are met.”
This followed a 900,000 euro-penalty from Spain’s data watchdog in 2013 and another 150,000 euros Google was asked to pay in January 2014 by the French regulator for breaching local privacy rules.
In January, Google pledged to improve its policy for U.K. customers after a related probe in that country.