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By The Associated Press
FILE – This Friday, Feb. 1, 2013, file photo shows Google CEO, Eric Schmidt, left, and French President Francois Hollande signing an agreement at the Elysee Palace in Paris. Google’s new privacy policy is under attack from regulators in its largest European markets, who on Tuesday, April 2, 2013 brought legal action to try and force the company to overhaul practices they say let it create a data goldmine at the expense of unwitting users. (AP Photo/Philippe Wojazer, Pool-File)
Six European countries brought legal action Tuesday against Google over a privacy policy that took effect 13 months ago. Led by the French, organizations in Britain, the Netherlands, Germany, Spain and Italy say the new practices let Google create a data goldmine at the expense of unwitting users. Regulatory officials have raised several privacy concerns about Google’s practices over the years. Here’s a look at some of those developments.

March 30, 2011: The Federal Trade Commission announces a settlement with Google. The search and advertising company agrees to adopt a comprehensive privacy program to settle federal charges that it deceived users and violated its own privacy policy when it launched a social-networking service called Buzz. The settlement mandates independent audits to oversee and verify Google’s privacy program every other year for the next 20 years. The settlement also requires Google to obtain user consent before sharing consumer information with third parties if it alters a service to use the data in a way that would violate its existing privacy policy. Google signed the deal in October 2011.

Jan. 24, 2012: Google announces a plan to link user data across its email, video, social-networking and other services. The company says the move will simplify its privacy policy, improve the user experience and help advertisers find customers more easily, especially on mobile devices. Critics raise privacy concerns. The plan takes effect March 1.

Feb. 28: France’s regulator says a preliminary analysis finds that Google’s new policy appears to violate European data-protection rules. The regulatory agency CNIL says Google’s explanation of how it will use the data is too vague and difficult to understand “even for trained privacy professionals.”

April 13: The Federal Communications Commission fines Google $25,000, saying the online search leader “deliberately impeded and delayed” an investigation into how it collected data while taking photos for its Street View mapping feature. Cars that had been taking street-level photos for Google’s online mapping service also had been grabbing information transmitted over unsecured Wi-Fi networks. Despite the fine, the FCC says it will not take action against Google over its data collection. Part of the reason for that is that the FCC says it still has “significant factual questions” about the Street View project that haven’t been answered.

April 26: Google disputes the FCC’s characterization of that probe and says the FCC was the party that took its time. Google argues that the 17-month inquiry would have gone much more quickly if the FCC hadn’t dawdled so much. Google says it accepted the fine to close the case.

Aug. 9: The FTC announces that Google has agreed to pay a $22.5 million fine to settle allegations that it broke a privacy promise by secretly tracking the online activities of millions of people who use Apple’s Safari web browser. It’s the largest penalty ever imposed by the FTC. Google isn’t admitting any wrongdoing. The fine isn’t over Google’s data collection, but for misrepresenting what was happening, in violation of last year’s agreement to settle the Buzz case. A federal judge approves the fine on Nov. 16.

Oct. 16: European regulators ask Google to clarify its new privacy policy and make it easier for users to opt out. France’s data protection agency, which led the European investigation, outlines three major concerns: It’s not clear enough in explaining to users what data are collected and how they will be used; it’s too difficult for users to opt out of data collection and combination; and Google doesn’t always say how long it will hold onto data. Google says the company is reviewing the report but believes its policy respects European law.

March 12, 2013: Google says it has agreed to a $7 million fine to settle a probe over Wi-Fi data collection connected to its canvassing for street-level photo. The settlement covers 38 states and the District of Columbia.

April 2: Led by the French, organizations in Britain, the Netherlands, Germany, Spain and Italy agree on legal action against Google over the 2012 changes to its privacy policy. They say the new practices let Google create a data goldmine at the expense of unwitting users. The action could end in fines or restrictions against Google across the entire 27-country European Union. Google says that it merged its myriad privacy policies for the sake of simplicity and that the changes comply with European laws.

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