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French culture minister snubs launch of Google's Paris arts hub

Culture and Communications minister Aurélie Filippetti
Culture and Communications minister Aurélie Filippetti AFP PHOTO / BERTRAND LANGLOIS

France's culture minister on Tuesday cancelled her attendance at the Paris launch of a Google cultural hub at the last minute, in a snub to the US giant over data protection and other issues.

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The French government is at loggerheads with Google over privacy, demands that it pass on part of its advertising revenues to newspapers and other content providers, and the US giant's controversial tax arrangements.

Aurelie Filippetti's office said she had decided not to go as planned to the launch of the "Lab", so as not to be seen as fully backing the tech firm "despite the quality of the project."

"At this stage, we do not have enough assurances on a certain number of issues," one aide said, adding that Filippetti wanted Google to "commit more resolutely" on areas such as the protection of personal data and taxation.

The Lab is a place in the French capital designed to enable artists, museums, foundations and other cultural players to meet the US giant's engineers and gain access to its technology.

A workshop equipped with experimental technology such as a giant interactive screen, a 3D printing stand and a very high-resolution camera will be made available and the Lab will also set up a residency programme for young artists from around the world.

It is a physical extension of Google's online Cultural Institute, which showcases exhibitions, archives and monuments from around the world on the Internet.

Like other technology giants, Google has come under the spotlight following revelations by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden of widespread online eavesdropping by US and other intelligence agencies.

But the firms have argued they have no choice but to give information when requested to do so by the government.

Earlier this month, Google said the number of requests for user data from governments and law enforcement organs had doubled since 2010.

Aside from Snowden's revelations, France's data protection watchdog maintains Google has failed to comply with the country's national privacy guidelines and announced in September it would take action against the US giant.

France is also currently investigating Google's practice of channelling revenues through Bermuda to reduce its exposure to taxes in a number of countries.

 

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