German Official Blasts Google Data Practices

Internet search engine Google is becoming a “giant monopoly” like Microsoft and could face legal action if it does not become more transparent, Germany’s justice minister said.

In an interview with weekly magazine Der Spiegel Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger said she was concerned the firm was accruing too much power and information about citizens via programs like Google Earth and Google Books.

“All in all, what’s taking shape there to a large extent is a giant monopoly, similar to Microsoft,” the minister said.

“My initial response is not to ban something or stop something. But I do want to create more transparency and ensure that users know what is going on with their data,” she added.

“I think the companies have an obligation here, and a lot of things ought to be improved. If that doesn’t happen soon we may have to take action as legislators.”

A liberal member of the business-friendly Free Democrats (FDP), Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger also served as justice minister between 1992 and 1996, when she stood down in protest about moves to allow the state more scope to snoop on citizens.

A spokesman for Google in Germany said offering users full transparency was central to how the company operated and that it was constantly working to make improvements in this realm.

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