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Google Privacy Policy To Be Investigated By EU Regulators

Max 'Beast from the East' Smolaks covers open source, public sector, startups and technology of the future at TechWeekEurope. If you find him looking lost on the streets of London, feed him coffee and sugar.

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Turns out making things simpler is not that simple

Google has been asked to “pause” the introduction of the single privacy policy for all of its products by a group representing European regulatory authorities.

The Article 29 Working Party, an independent body that brings together data protection authorities from each of the EU’s 27 member states, said it needs time to investigate whether the new policy offers sufficient protection for personal data.

Why are they doing this

Last week, Google announced that it will merge about 60 privacy policies for different products into a single, “easy-to-understand” document. It will define how Google uses personal information collected by its search engine, YouTube, Google+ and other services and was set to go into effect on 1 March.

Just a few days ago, eight American senators wrote a letter to Google chief executive Larry Page, expressing concern over the new policy and the inability to opt out. The response by the company stated: “we have built meaningful privacy controls into our products, and we are committed to continue offering those choices in the future.”

“We’re updating our privacy policies for two reasons: First, we’re trying to make them simpler and more understandable,” commented Pablo Chavez, Director of Public Policy at Google in a blog post. “By folding more than 60 product-specific privacy policies into our main Google one, we’re explaining our privacy commitments to users of those products in 85 percent fewer words.”

Second, we want to make our users’ experience seamless and easy by allowing more sharing of information among products when users are signed into their Google Accounts,” he added.

This side of the Atlantic

This wasn’t enough to appease the authorities, and now it’s Europeans’ turn to be worried. The Article 29 Working Party requested to stop the policy roll-out until the investigation is complete, saying that because these services are so popular, any change could have wide-ranging consequences. The investigation will be headed by the French data protection authority.

European Commissioner Viviane Reding welcomed the move, saying it was a necessary step to establish that EU data protection rules were being firmly applied. The request by the EU team comes just days after the European Commission set out plans to overhaul its data protection laws, putting in place much more stringent policies and hefty fines for data breaches.

You can watch a video from Google explaining the changes below: