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2/3/2012
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Google Rejects EU Request On Privacy Policy Consolidation

EU regulators want Google to delay its plan to combine privacy policies. But Google doesn't like that idea.

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A European regulatory group focused on data protection has asked Google to delay its planned privacy policy consolidation, which is scheduled to take effect on March 1, 2012.

In a letter sent on Thursday to Google CEO Larry Page, Jacob Kohnstamm, Chairman of the Article 29 Working Party, asked for "a pause" before Google implements its privacy policy adjustments "in the interests of ensuring that there can be no misunderstanding about Google's commitments to information rights of their users and EU citizens."

Having insisted repeatedly over the past week that its commitment to user privacy remains unchanged, Google on Friday declined to alter its schedule.

In a reply to the Article 29 Working Party, Google global privacy counsel Peter Fleischer explains that EU data protection officials were briefed prior to Google's policy change announcement on January 24 and that none of the officials suggested a delay would appropriate.

[ Could cloud computing be constrained by copyright law? Read Google: Digital Music Case Has Cloud Law Implications. ]

Google last week said it would be replacing some 60 privacy policies and terms of service documents with a single set of rules governing its handling of personal data and usage of its products. Alma Whitten, Google's director of privacy, product, and engineering, explained that Google wants to make its policies easier to understand and to update its policies to reflect its intention to combine user data across products as a way to improve user personalization.

Already under fire for integrating content from its Google+ social network into its search results and for alleged abuse of its search dominance, the company's policy shift prompted a backlash. U.S. lawmakers expressed concern over the inability of Google users to opt-out of Google-wide data profiles, and Microsoft--which has been vocal in urging regulators to restrain Google--took the opportunity to claim that Google's planned changes will make it more difficult for people to control their information.

Google last week attempted to "set the record straight" about its privacy policy changes. And on Wednesday, the company took to "busting myths about our approach to privacy."

The damage control continued on Thursday, with Google executives answering lawmakers' questions at a closed-door hearing before the House Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing, and Trade. It looks like Google may yet have further work to do: According to political news site The Hill, Rep. Mary Bono Mack (R-Calif.), chairman of the subcommittee, was dissatisfied with Google's response.

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