Europe to investigate new Google privacy policy

Wed Feb 29, 2012 11:43am EST

A video hangouts stand is pictured at the new headquarters of Google France before its official inauguration in Paris December 6, 2011.   REUTERS/Jacques Brinon/Pool

A video hangouts stand is pictured at the new headquarters of Google France before its official inauguration in Paris December 6, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Jacques Brinon/Pool

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(Reuters) - France's data protection watchdog has cast doubt on the legality and fairness of Google's new privacy policy, which it said breached European laws.

The CNIL regulator told Google in a letter dated February 27 it would lead a European-wide investigation of the web search giant's latest policy and would send it questions by mid-March.

Google said in January it was simplifying its privacy policy, consolidating 60 guidelines into a single one that will apply for all its services, including YouTube, Gmail and its social network Google+.

The U.S. Internet company also said it will pool data it collects on individual users across its services, allowing it to better tailor search results and improve service.

Users cannot opt out of the new policy if they want to continue using Google's services.

"The CNIL and EU data authorities are deeply concerned about the combination of personal data across services: they have strong doubts about the lawfulness and fairness of such processing, and its compliance with European data protection legislation," the French regulator wrote to Google.

Google plans to put the changes into effect March 1 and has rebuffed two requests from European regulators for a delay.

The tussle over data privacy comes at a delicate time for Google, whose business model is based on giving away free search, email, and other services while making money by selling user-targeted advertising.

It is already being investigated by the EU's competition authority and the U.S. Federal Trade Commission over how it ranks search results and whether it favors its own products over rival services.

In a Tuesday blog post responding to CNIL's letter, Google said it was happy to answer questions from Europe's data protection authorities.

"As we've said several times over the past week, while our privacy policies will change on 1st March, our commitment to our privacy principles is as strong as ever," wrote Peter Fleischer, Google's global privacy counsel.

In his letter to CNIL, which was also posted, Fleischer added: "We are confident that our new simple, clear and transparent privacy policy respects all European data protection laws and principles."

TRICKY TIME

Google's new privacy policy follows closely on a European Commission move to overhaul its 17-year-old data protection rules in favour of more stringent requirements.

Under the proposed new EU rules, Internet companies like Google, Facebook and Yahoo would have to ask users whether they can store and sell their data to other businesses, such as advertisers, which is source of almost all their income.

Internet users can also ask for their data to be deleted from websites for good, the so-called "right to be forgotten."

Policy makers in other countries have also expressed concerns over Google's new privacy policy.

Eight U.S. lawmakers sent a letter to Google in late January expressing concern that a planned consolidation of user information endangered consumers' privacy.

Japan's trade and industrial ministry warned on Wednesday that Google must follow Japan's privacy law in implementing its new approach, and that Google needed to provide explanations to address users' concerns.

"It is important for the firm to be flexible by providing necessary additional explanations or measures to address actual user concerns or requests also after March 1..." the ministry said in a statement.

(Reporting by Leila Abboud and Yoko Kubota; Editing by David Cowell)

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Comments (2)
guestp wrote:
company swinging to a net loss of $413.1M from a profit of $155.9M a year earlier due to write-downs, other charges and lower sales prices. Adjusted EPS fell to $1.26 from $1.88 and revenues rose 8% to $660M, with both figures missing forecasts. Because of weaker-than-expected demand, First Solar cut its 2012 revenue guidance, and said it will scale back output and halt plans for a new factory in Vietnam.
shanghai apartment

Mar 05, 2012 11:51pm EST  --  Report as abuse
guestp wrote:
propelled its market cap to within a hair of $500B – rarefied air indeed. Only five companies have ever had $500B market caps in absolute value terms, and three of those pooped out during the tech boom in 2000. Josh Brown’s latest “thing Apple is worth more than”: the U.S. interstate highway system.
apartment shanghai

Mar 05, 2012 11:55pm EST  --  Report as abuse
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