The European Justice Commissioner, Viviane Reding, has admitted in a speech that tiny fines have had no impact on Google’s approach to privacy and has called on European regulators to get real.  In a speech on the dry topic of EU data protect reform, Reding woke the audience up with the following views on our friends from California:

“Take Google as an example: the company introduced changes to its privacy policy two years ago. Several national data protection authorities in the EU found that this does not comply with existing data protection rules. Google has been sanctioned in two countries, France and Spain, and is under investigation in another 4, including Germany. In Spain, Google was fined the maximum amount of EUR 900,000, while in France – whose data protection authority is one of the most respected and feared in Europe – the fine levied was EUR 150,000, also the highest possible sum. Taking Google’s 2012 performance figures, the fine in France represents 0.0003% of its global turnover. Pocket money.

“Is it surprising to anyone that two whole years after the case emerged, it is still unclear whether Google will amend its privacy policy or not?

“Europeans need to get serious. And that is why our reform introduces stiff sanctions that can reach as much as 2% of the global annual turnover of a company. In the Google case, that would have meant a fine of EUR 731 million (USD 1 billion). A sum much harder to brush off.”

Well Commissioner, we agree with you.  So what are you going to do about it?  You’re absolutely right that it’ll take real fines to change Google’s behaviour.  If national regulators’ hands are tied, how about the EU taking the gloves off.  Time for you, Ms Reding, to spell our how you will protect European consumers.