Japanese government issues Google rare public reminder of privacy laws

Two Japanese ministries give the search giant an unsubtle message they are watching closely as it releases a new privacy policy

Two Japanese ministries issued a rare public reminder to Google about the country's privacy laws, just as the search giant rolled out its controversial new privacy policy.

The short memo from the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications and the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry was sent to Google's Japan subsidiary and posted online by the government on Wednesday evening, hours before its new policy went live.

The memo stressed the importance of following local privacy laws, fully explaining the changes to users, and maintaining a flexible stance toward undertaking additional explanation or measures if needed in the future. The rare public reminder by the Japanese government appeared to be an unsubtle message to Google that its actions under the revised policy were being watched closely.

"This was just a notification, and requires no action or response from Google," said Hayato Okai, an official from the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications.

"We will continue to monitor Google's policies and its actions with regard to privacy."

Calls to Google's public relations in Japan went unanswered Thursday. The company posted a detailed explanation of the changes to its policy on its Japanese blog that mirrored explanations posted in other regions.

Google has faced a storm of criticism over its move to create a single privacy policy for all of its online products. A wide range of groups, from U.S. attorneys general to European regulators to consumer groups, have expressed concern over the changes or asked the firm to delay them before they went live Thursday.

The company has said the new policy greatly is much simpler and easy to understand than the multiple policies it previously maintained, and emphasized that no new information will be collected. It said users will still have the ability to delete some of their history, or migrate their data to another service altogether.

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Jay Alabaster

IDG News Service

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