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France threatens Google with privacy fines

PARIS — France is giving Google three months to be more upfront about the data it collects — or be fined.

The legal action accelerates a Europe-wide fight against Google Inc. over its use of personal data. While the fines threatened are small for one of the world’s richest companies, the move puts new pressure on Google as it smarts from recent criticism over providing customer data to US government surveillance efforts.

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The French National Commission on Computing and Freedom said Spain has joined France in the first wave of legal action and that Britain, Germany, Italy, and the Netherlands will join in coming weeks. France’s formal warning gives the company three months to make changes in its privacy practices, such as specifying to users what it is using personal data for.

A spokesman said Google believes its privacy practices respect European laws.

In Britain, the Information Commissioner’s Office said its investigationis still underway.

Spain’s data protection agency did not have immediate comment on the French statement.

The Dutch privacy watchdog, the College for the Protection of Personal Data, said it is investigating Google’s ‘‘privacy conditions’’ but a spokeswoman declined to comment further while the investigation is ongoing.

France’s data protection agency led a European investigation last year into Google’s privacy policy. European regulators, answering concerns that the Web giant may be collecting too much data and holding it for too long, urged Google to make it easier for users to opt out of the collections. ‘‘French law demands that when you’re collecting information about someone, you need to collect it for a precise reason,’’ said the regulator’s president, Isabelle Falque-Pierrotin.

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