Google, Facebook to face large fines in Europe unless they change policies

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Google, Facebook and several other large US-based internet sites have had a tense relationship with EU regulators, who see many of their terms and practices as contrary to European law, especially when it comes to consumer privacy. Now, it appears, the companies are being given immediate deadlines to make the requested changes or face financial penalties.

According to Reuters, there’s a stepped-up effort by EU leaders to get American tech companies to comply with European regulations and norms. Among the issues being discussed:

  • Facebook is asked to remove “slanderous or threatening online postings quickly”
  • More aggressive action against fraudulent consumer content or scams
  • More explicit identification of sponsored content
  • Eliminating terms that require waivers of EU citizens’ contractual rights
  • Ability for consumers to sue in domestic courts rather than being compelled to sue in US courts

While some of these areas and conflicts are being vaguely reported by Reuters, they represent a group of legal issues and concerns around consumer privacy, and rights more generally, that the EU has been pursuing for years with US tech companies.

Currently pending against Google are three antitrust claims concerning AdWords contracts, Android and Google Play rules and shopping search. Facebook privacy issues and use of data for ad targeting have also been at the center of controversy and drawn EU regulatory ire for several years.

On the broad question of consumer privacy, the EU and US appear to be headed in opposite directions — with more limited or lax enforcement of consumer protections expected under the Trump administration and increasing stringency under European law.

About The Author

Greg Sterling is a Contributing Editor at Search Engine Land. He writes a personal blog, Screenwerk, about connecting the dots between digital media and real-world consumer behavior. He is also VP of Strategy and Insights for the Local Search Association. Follow him on Twitter or find him at Google+.


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