Google won't delay new privacy policy despite EU concerns

Europe's data protection watchdog wants more time to investigte the Internet giant's policy change

Google does not plan to delay its new privacy policy despite calls from Europe's data protection watchdog.

The Article 29 Working Party (A29 WP), made up of the data regulators from all European Union member states as well as the European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS), sent a letter to Google saying that the Internet giant should "pause" before going ahead with the planned changes to its privacy policy. In January Google announced that it would "simplify" its privacy regulations as of March 1. This would create a single privacy policy for all its services including YouTube, Gmail and Google+.

"Given the wide range of services you offer, and the popularity of these services, changes in your privacy policy may affect many citizens in most or all of the E.U. member states," wrote Jacob Kohnstamm, A29 WP Chairman in a letter to Google CEO Larry Page.

"We wish to check the possible consequences for the protection of the personal data of these citizens in a coordinated procedure. In light of the above, we call for a pause in the interests of ensuring that there can be no misunderstanding about Google's commitments to information rights of their users and EU citizens, until we have completed our analysis," continues the letter.

However, the request is not legally binding and Google believes that any changes to its schedule would confuse users. Spokesman Al Verney also expressed some surprise at the timing of the letter: "We briefed most of the members of the working party in the weeks leading up to our announcement. None of them expressed substantial concerns at the time."

The new policy explains what information Google collects from its users and what it does with it. Recently announced European Commission proposals for the Data Protection Directive would give users new rights such as the right to be forgotten, as well as the requirement for organizations including Google to seek explicit consent before storing any personal data. But these proposals are a long way from being implemented.

The French data protection authority, CNIL, will take the lead in investigating the impact of Google's plans.

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Jennifer Baker

IDG News Service
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