Google Told to Pause Privacy Changes in EU Over French Check

Google Inc., owner of the world’s most-popular search engine, was asked to “pause” changes to its privacy policy in Europe during an examination by France’s data-protection agency.

France’s National Commission for Computing and Civil Liberties, known as CNIL, will “check the possible consequences for the protection of the personal data” of Europeans that may come with Google’s planned changes, said Jacob Kohnstamm, the chairman of the Article 29 Working Party, a group of European Union data-protection regulators.

Google said last week that it will combine more than 60 privacy policies covering most of its products, including Android software for mobile phones, to create a “beautifully simple, intuitive user experience.” The changes are due to take effect on March 1 and won’t be delayed by the CNIL review, the company said today.

“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,” said Kohnstamm in a letter to Google Chief Executive Officer Larry Page dated yesterday. CNIL will act on behalf of the other EU privacy agencies, he said.

Google doesn’t plan to delay the changes to its privacy policy, said Anthony House, a spokesman for Google. European privacy regulators didn’t raise any “substantial concerns” when the company informed them of the changes prior to last month’s announcement. Data protection regulators in Europe can’t require Google to pause its policy changes, he said.

‘Won’t Be Pausing’

“We have done the largest communication to users in our history and to delay would cause significant confusion, so no, we won’t be pausing,” House said in a telephone interview.

Google isn’t changing users’ existing privacy settings or collecting any new or additional data about them, the company’s Global Privacy Counsel Peter Fleischer told the Article 29 group in a letter published on Google’s blog. For example, the changes would allow Google to combine information from YouTube with Google search so it could recommend YouTube videos based on a user’s search history, he said.

European Union Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding announced an overhaul of the region’s data protection rules last week to give privacy watchdogs more powers to take binding decisions and impose fines on companies. Reding said today it was “good to see that the Article 29 Working Party” was acting on Google’s privacy policy.

“We need a clear and strong application” of EU data protection rules, she said in an e-mailed statement.

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