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Google Ordered to Change Its Privacy Policy by U.K. Watchdog

Google Inc. (GOOG) must change its privacy policy in line with U.K. data protection rules or it will face a “formal enforcement action,” the country’s watchdog said in a letter sent to the owner of the world’s most-used search engine.

Google failed to “provide sufficient information” to help users understand how their data will be used by the company, and “must now amend” its policy, the U.K. data protection authority said today. The decision stems from coordinated action that data privacy regulators across Europe announced in April.

“We have today written to Google to confirm our findings relating to the update of the company’s privacy policy,” the Information Commissioner’s Office said in a statement. “In our letter we confirm that its updated privacy policy raises serious questions about its compliance with the U.K. Data Protection Act.”

Google faces probes across Europe over changes to harmonize privacy policies for more than 60 products last year. Global data-protection regulators last month wrote to the Mountain View, California-based company urging Chief Executive Officer Larry Page to contact them about possible issues with its web-enabled eyeglasses, called Google Glass.

“Our privacy policy respects European law and allows us to create simpler, more effective services,” Al Verney, a Brussels-based spokesman for Google, said by phone. “We have engaged fully with the authorities involved throughout this process and will continue to do so going forward.”

Data protection regulators from the 28-nation EU, that make up the so-called Article 29 Data Protection Working Party, wrote to Google Chief Executive Officer Larry Page last October, saying the company “empowers itself to collect vast amounts of personal data about Internet users” without demonstrating that this “collection was proportionate,” and asking the company to bring its policy in line with EU rules.

To contact the reporter on this story: Stephanie Bodoni in Luxembourg at sbodoni@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Anthony Aarons at aaarons@bloomberg.net

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