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French data watchdog spurns Google’s privacy changes

Updated Claims the proposed changes are unlawful
Wed Feb 29 2012, 10:47

THE FRENCH DATA PROTECTION AUTHORITY has written to Google's CEO Larry Page with its concerns about about the firm changing its privacy policies. In summary the letter says, "Don't change them".

Google backs its privacy policy changes and says that they are designed to make things simpler for its users. However, the changes have a lot of critics.

Google's new policy goes live tomorrow, 1 March, meaning that users have just today to decide what sort of impact it will have on them. Some, including privacy advocate Alexander Hanff, are angry at the firm and are taking independent action.

The French Data Protection Authority (DPA) has called the changes unlawful and unfair, and in its letter to Larry Page (PDF) it said that Google should have spoken with authorities before pushing ahead on them. Having studied the changes, and the information put out by Google, the DPA has decided that it cannot support them in their present form.

"Our preliminary analysis shows that Google's new policy does not meet requirements of the European Directive on Data Protection, especially regarding the information provided to data subjects," writes Isabelle Falque-Pierrotin from the Commission Nationale de L'informatique et Des Libertes (CNIL) in the letter.

"The CNIL and the EU data protection authorities are deeply concerned about the combination of personal data across services: they have strong doubts about the lawfulness and fairness of such proceedings."

In supporting information the CNIL said that Google's changes will not promote transparency, but actually "raise fears and questions about Google's actual practices".

"The CNIL and the EU data protection authorities are deeply concerned about the combination of data across services and have strong doubts about the lawfulness and fairness of such processing. They intend to address these questions in detail with Google's representatives," it added.

The CNIL was invited to study the changes by the Article 29 Working Party, a group that represents privacy interests.

Google has responded to our request for comment and told the INQUIRER that it offered to meet with the French data protection bods on more than one occassion.

"Over the past month we have offered to meet with the CNIL on several occasions to answer any questions they might have, and that offer remains open. We believe we've found a reasonable balance between the Working Party's recommendations: to ‘streamline and simplify' our policies while providing ‘comprehensive information' to users", it said in a riposte.

"We are committed to providing our users with a seamless experience across Google's services, and to making our privacy commitments to them easy to understand." µ



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