Google faces European privacy policy revolt

Feb 3, 2012
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A European privacy watchdog has demanded Google halt its privacy policy changes, while it looks into "the possible consequences for the protection of the personal data" of users in Europe. The Article 29 Data Protection Working Party requested the delay in a letter to Google [pdf link] this week, claiming that a French data protection authority had agreed to investigate Google's changes. The controversy follows similar concerns in the US, which saw Google execs meet with members of Congress earlier this week for a less-than-satisfactory show and tell session.

According to the Article 29 group, the French National Commission for Computing and Liberties (CNIL) has been drafted in to look at whether the privacy policy represents a threat to the personal data of those users in Europe.

Google's changes have been the cause of much controversy and confusion over the past week. The search giant billed the amended privacy policy as a boon to users, condensing more than sixty separate documents for different Google products into one single document.

However, privacy advocates took issue with some of the data sharing provisions in the policy, though Google says the vast majority were already permitted under older versions. These allow Google to share information about an individual user account across the various services that account is registered to use, so that - for instance - calendar entries can be synchronized with current location and local traffic data filtered in as well.

Lawmakers in the US are now demanding a single opt-out page, where privacy-concerned users can deactivate any tracking. Google believes it already offers this with its existing Dashboard.

The search company has no plans to delay any of its privacy policy changes, spokesperson Anthony House says, based on there being no "substantial concerns" raised when European privacy regulators were initially informed of the changes.

"Given the wide range of services you offer, and popularity of these services, changes in your privacy policy may affect many citizens in most or all of the EU member states.

We wish to check the possible consequences for the protection of the personal data of these citizens in a coordinated procedure. We have therefore asked the French data protection authority, the CNIL, to take the lead. The CNIL has kindly accepted this task and will be your point of contact for the data protection authorities in the EU.

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." Article 29 Working Party

[via Bloomberg]


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