Google has been threatened with a fine of up to 15m euros (£12m) if it does not do a better job of protecting the privacy of Dutch citizens.
The threat was made by the Dutch data protection agency (DPA), which said Google had broken local laws governing what it could do with user data.
The search giant has been given until the end of February 2015 to change the way it handles personal data.
Google said it was “disappointed” by the Dutch data watchdog’s statement.
“This has been ongoing since 2012, and we hope our patience will no longer be tested,” Dutch DPA chairman Jacob Kohnstamm told Reuters.
The row has blown up over the way that Google combines data about what people do online in order to tailor adverts to their preferences.
Information about keywords in search queries, email messages, cookies, location data and video viewing habits are all used by Google to build up a profile on each of its millions of users.
Dutch laws said Google should tell people about this data-gathering activity and get permission from them before it was combined or analysed, said Mr Kohnstamm.
“However, we’ve recently shared some proposals for further changes with the European privacy regulators group, and we look forward to discussing with them soon.”
The Dutch DPA was one of a group of six European data regulators that looked at Google following changes made in early 2012 to unify its privacy policies around the world.
In another news, Apple and eBay are among those supporting Microsoft’s stand against handing over data stored in Ireland to the US government.
One year ago, prosecutors issued a warrant for emails stored by Microsoft in an Irish data centre, in connection with a drug-related investigation.
The tech giant refused to comply but was ordered by a judge to hand over the information in July.
Microsoft has now filed letters of support from a large number of allies.
These include tech firms Verizon, Amazon, Cisco and HP, as well as trade associations such as the US Chamber of Commerce, and Digital Rights Ireland.
Various news organisations such as CNN, the Guardian and the Washington Post are on board along with computer scientists from universities across the US including Harvard, Stanford and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Earlier this year, New York judge James Francis said that a warrant for online information was the equivalent of a subpoena and had to be obeyed.
The firm and its supporters argue that the centre in Dublin is outside US jurisdiction, while the prosecutors claim that as the data itself is accessible by the firm from within the US, this does not apply.
“We believe that when one government wants to obtain email that is stored in another country, it needs to do so in a manner that respects existing domestic and international laws,” wrote Microsoft’s Brad Smith, general counsel and executive vice president of legal and corporate affairs, in a blog post.
“In contrast, the US government’s unilateral use of a search warrant to reach email in another country puts both fundamental privacy rights and cordial international relations at risk.”
Source Credits: BBC