EU regulators: Google should ‘pause’ privacy changes
The search giant had been planning to combine the 70 different privacy policies currently in force for its various services into a single document. It had recently been promoting the changes, which are still set to come into force on 1 March, with prominent adverts on its home page and whenever users logged in.
In a letter to Google’s chief executive Larry Page, Europe’s ‘Data Protection Working Party’ wrote that “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 committee gave no indication of how long it would like the pause to be.
A senior source at Google expressed surprise at the move, but noted that there was a month for the committee to examine its concerns. The source also said that while the committee had no legal authority to require any delay, the tone of its letter was significantly less aggressive than those Google has received in the past.
Viviane Reding, the European Commissioner for Justice, has however previously welcomed Google’s announcement: ‘Google was quick,” she said. “Google made the first in the step of more privacy rules. I can only applaud more companies to try to move in the right direction.” Washington politicians have raised concerns that users cannot completely opt-out of all data gathering by Google, however, in an unusual situation where American groups appeared to be more concerned about the proposed changes than their European counterparts.
Ms Reding is herself in the process of proposing new privacy regulations that would give citizens the 'right to be forgotten' online, and would force larger organisations to appoint a Data Protection Officer. Some commentators have suggested that this in itself has angered national regulators, who fear their position could be undermined by regulators at major companies.
European privacy regulators themselves called upon Google to streamline its privacy policies in 2004, and the company has openly been moving towards doing so ever since.
Sources at Google said it would further confuse users to announce any pause and then to announce the return of new policies. The company will talk to the committee over the next month and is confident that it will have a new policy in place on 1 March.