Google responds to European questionnaire on data protection

The search giant only found answers to 24 of the European data protection authorities' 69 questions

By Loek Essers, IDG News Service |  Software

Google has responded to questions from European privacy regulators about its new privacy policy, but only managed to answer 24 of the 69 questions, according to a copy of the letter published by Google on Thursday.

The Article 29 Working Party, the umbrella organization for Europe's privacy regulators, twice asked Google to delay the launch of its new privacy policy, saying that it breaches E.U. privacy laws. The terms took effect in March, and aim to impose the same privacy policy on all Google's services. After Google denied the request to postpone the policy's introduction, the French National Commission on Computing and Liberty (CNIL), acting on behalf of the working party, sent Google a 12-page questionnaire comprising 69 privacy-related questions that concerned the Commission.

Google's Global Privacy Counsel Peter Fleischer answered some of the questions on Thursday, and again reminded CNIL that Google had asked on several occasions to meet to discuss privacy matters. He repeated that Google was not willing to halt the policy's introduction because the request came after a lengthy campaign informing users about the changes, and delaying introduction of the new rules would have confused users.

While Google said it rolled out the largest information campaign in its history to inform users about the policy changes, the company failed to provide the CNIL with figures about the effect of the campaign. Google was not able to provide unique visitor statistics for the dedicated privacy main site and its localized versions. Fleischer pointed out that the Google privacy site is only one of many different mechanisms Google uses to disseminate privacy information. Google was not able to explain why it could not provide statistics for the privacy landing page, since its London office is closed for the Easter holiday.

Google also failed to provide details of its data backup regime. The company was asked to explain why its policy says that it may not remove information from backup systems when the user asks for its deletion. While the company said it would delete users' personal information upon request, it said Google's backup and retention policies are set to take into account users' interest in security and business continuity.

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