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Google Privacy Policy Changes Pressed For By EU Board

By , INVESTOR'S BUSINESS DAILY

Tue, Oct 16, 2012 at 12:58 pm

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A European Union group on Tuesday sought changes to Google’s recently updated privacy policy, including urging the company to release more information about its use of the personal data it collects on users.

On Tuesday, the Article 29 Data Protection Working Party, which identifies itself as an advisory group made up of government privacy watchdogs throughout Europe, sent a letter to Google detailing concerns about the Mountain View, Calif.-based company’s new, simplified privacy policy.

Put in effect March 1, that policy replaced some 60 individual policies across Google products, including YouTube and Search. The company billed the changes as a streamlining of its privacy policy, creating a single overarching policy that customers could agree to and be covered for most or all Google services they were using.

But the European group, along with EU Data Protection Authorities, says the changes have made it easier for Google to “combine almost any data from any services for any purposes.” In short, the EU board is arguing that sharing data across different services gives Google too much leeway to possibly use collected data in ways that users hadn’t intended them to be used.

“Combination of data, like any other processing of personal data, requires an appropriate legal ground,” Tuesday’s letter reads, “and should not be incompatible with the purpose for which these data were collected.”

Peter Fleischer, Google’s global privacy counsel, told IBD via an emailed statement that he’s now reviewing the report.

“Our new privacy policy demonstrates our long-standing commitment to protecting our users’ information and creating great products,” Fleischer said. “We are confident that our privacy notices respect European law.”

The regulators make the case that Google, as “a leader in the online world,” should be proactive in engaging with governments.

“Indeed, the Privacy Policy suggests the absence of any limit concerning the scope of the collection and the potential uses of the personal data,” write the members of the working party.

The letter says there are three main “legal issues” with the new policy. Google provides “insufficient information to users,” the “investigation confirmed our concerns about the combination of data across services” and Google “failed to provide retention periods for the personal data is processes.”

John Simpson, of Consumer Watchdog, a group critical of Google, says in a statement that Google acted with “complete disregard” for users’ privacy.

“I am glad the European Union is calling out their abuses, but am disappointed that American consumers must look across the Atlantic to see privacy rights defended,” Simpson said.

Google shares were up a fraction in afternoon trading Tuesday.

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