France snubs Google culture launch amid row

Google is having trouble getting it right in France.

France's culture minister snubbed the launch of Google's latest project, the Paris-based Cultural Institute Lab, over a row about privacy. Aurelie Fillipetti, who was meant to come to the Internet giant's latest cultural venture opening Tuesday, canceled at the last minute.

"I don't want to legitimize an operation that fails to address a number of outstanding questions we have with Google," Fillipetti told Le Monde newspaper, referring to a spat between Google and European governments earlier this year over transparency in collecting personal data.

France and some other European countries think Google is not doing enough to stop the unauthorized collection of personal data through its online outlets.

Google, which enjoys huge search engine market share in France and Europe, says it respects European laws and that its services help users.

After the pullout by the culture minister, the junior minister for technology, Fleur Pellerin, attended Tuesday's event instead. The new cultural lab in Paris is meant as a brick-and-mortar space for cultural figures to meet and where people can view modern art.

It's also seen by some as a gesture by Google toward France's cultural traditions, in a country that has challenged the California-based company over its book archiving activities, its use of French news content on search pages, and its use of personal data.

But French authorities bristled again when Google Vice President Vint Cerf told the Fair Trade Commission last month that "it will be more and more difficult for us to guarantee respecting privacy."