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    Update: EU Asks Google to ‘Pause’ New Privacy Policy

    Last week, Google announced changes in its privacy policies that will affect users of its services, such as search, Gmail, Google+ and YouTube. Advocates and legislators questioned the changes, saying that there were privacy issues, and criticized the Internet services giant (Congress pdf; archive pdf) for not including an opt-out provision; Google said that users who objected could stop using its services and move their data elsewhere. Google responded to the criticisms in a letter (pdf) to U.S. lawmakers and a blog post.

    Now, the EU’s Article 29 Data Protection Working Party has written (Working Party pdf; archive pdf) to Google about the privacy policy, which affect 60 Google services. The Working Party includes data protection authorities from all 27 European Union member states as well as the European Data Protection Supervisor. Jacob Kohnstamm, chairman of the Article 29 Working Party, writes:

    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.

    The New York Times reports that EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding, who is in charge of data protection, supports the Working Party’s request. She wrote in a statement that the CNIL’s investigation and a delay of the privacy policy changes, set to go into effect on March 1, would give “legal certainty for citizens and businesses.” The Times also reports:

    Google said Friday it was prepared to answer any questions raised by the investigation but gave no indication that it would delay the changes.

    The company suggested that any delay instituting the new policy would harm rather than help consumers.

    “As part of announcing our new privacy policy, we’ve made the largest communication to users in our history,” it said. “Delaying the new policy would cause significant confusion.” […]

    The working party is advisory and has no enforcement powers, so any pressure on Google to make changes would need to be exerted through the 27 national authorities.

    The French national regulator, the National Commission for Computing and Civil Liberties, known as CNIL, will coordinate the investigation.

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