* EU regulators query Google privacy overhaul
* Google surprised by regulators' concerns
* US lawmakers also question Google on data protection
By Claire Davenport
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 networking site.
Regulators are concerned that Google may share personal data
across all of its platforms without giving users the chance to
give their prior consent.
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.
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
Lawmakers and civil liberties groups in the United States
are also concerned by Google's plans to include photos and posts
from users' Google+ accounts in search results.
On Jan. 13, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission added Google+
to a long running probe into how the company conducts searches
after complaints by the civil liberties lobby, the Electronic
Privacy Information Centre (EPIC).
The EU's competition authority launched an investigation
into Google search in December 2010 after French rivals
complained they were being unfairly ranked by the search giant.
On Thursday, EPIC also filed a Freedom of Information Act
request demanding that Google release its annual privacy audit.
"Google promises access to the world's information, but it
has not made available to the public the report it submitted to
the Federal Trade Commission," said Marc Rotenberg, EPIC's
Google said the concerns raised by European regulators were
"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."
The new policy seeks to explain what information Google
collects from the millions of people who use its services every
day, why it is collected, how it is used and what choices are
then offered to limit how it is accessed and updated.
Google is not obliged to wait for the conclusion of the
Article 29 Working Group's investigation before adopting its new
policy, but has in the past sought to work with European
authorities when they have raised concerns.
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.