BRUSSELS Feb 3 A group of European
regulators has written to Google Inc calling on it to
to investigate whether the proposals sufficiently protect users'
Google said in January it was simplifying its privacy
regulations, consolidating 60 guidelines into a single policy
that will function across all its services, including YouTube,
Gmail and Google+, its social network site.
The Article 29 Working Party, an independent body that
brings together data protection authorities from each of the
EU's 27 countries and the EU's executive European Commission,
said it needed to examine Google's plans more thoroughly before
the search group's policy comes into effect on March 1.
"Given the wide range of services you offer, and the
affect many citizens in most or all of the EU member states,"
the group wrote to Google Chief Executive Larry Page on Feb. 2.
"We wish to check the possible consequences for the
protection of the personal data of these citizens in a
coordinated way," it said, explaining that France's data
protection authority would be in charge of the investigation.
"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."
The European commissioner in charge of data protection,
Viviane Reding, welcomed the move, saying it was a necessary to
establish that EU data rules were being firmly applied.
"The Commission therefore calls on Europe's data protection
authorities to ensure that EU law is fully complied with in
Google said the raising of concerns came as a surprise.
"We briefed most of the members of the working party in the
weeks leading up to our announcement," said Al Verney, Google's
spokesman in Brussels.
"None of them expressed substantial concerns at the time,
but of course we're happy to speak with any data protection
authority that has questions."
Google's director of public policy has explained the new
policy as a commitment to simplicity, with the company trying to
explain its guidelines far more concisely.
"We're explaining our privacy commitments to users of those
products in 85 percent fewer words," Pablo Chavez wrote on his
blog on Jan. 31.
The new policy explains what information Google collects
from the millions of people who use its services every day, why
the information is collected, how it is used and what choices
are then offered to limit how it is accessed and updated.
While Google is not obliged to wait for the conclusion of
the Article 29 Working Group's investigation before adopting its
new policy, the company has tended in the past to be as
cooperative as possible with European authorities.
The move by the EU regulators comes days after the European
Commission set out legislative plans to overhaul its 17-year-old
data protection rules, putting in place much more stringent
policies on the protection of individual's data.
Under the new rules, internet companies such as 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."
Separately, Google remains the subject of an inquiry by both
the EU's competition authority and the U.S. Federal Trade
Commission into how the company ranks its search results. The
inquiries are based in part on complaints from French rivals.
The FTC expanded its probe on Jan. 13 to include Google's
social networking site Google+.