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Search Engine Marketing > EU Calls for Halt on Google Privacy Policy Update
February 7, 2012

Google has been on a roll these past few months delivering constant changes to their services, changes that always seem to face opposition. Just last month Search Plus Your World, Google’s update to its leading search engine raised brows and voices of companies and search engine marketing experts everywhere. And just days later the search titan announced its intention to update its Privacy Policy beginning March 1, merging more than 60 privacy documents from its different products. This too did not escape suspicion as last week the European Union’s (EU) data protection asked that the proposed update be postponed to give them time to verify that it does not break the bloc’s data protection laws. The news has somewhat disturbed Google, which according to The Sydney Morning Herald replied that they had already informed data protection agencies ahead of time without receiving serious concerned feedback.

Cause for Concern?

NDTV.com reports that in a letter addressed to Google Chief Executive Larry Page, Jacob Kohnstamm, chairman of 27 national privacy regulators in the EU stated that the French data protection agency has already started a probe of the updated policy and is looking closely at how it will affect Google users in the EU. "We call for a pause,” Kohnstamm wrote, “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." NDTV reports that the data protection agencies of several other countries including Ireland and Germany have also expressed their concern over the new policy.

In response to this Google published a letter by Global Privacy Counsel Peter Fleischer, stating that the main goal of the updated policy is to combine and simplify the numerous and varying rules for Google’s many services. "Our updated privacy policy makes it clear in one comprehensive document that if a user is signed in we may combine information she has provided from one service with information from other services," Fleischer stated. Google’s official blog about the update states that information can be easier to share among their services as well, and search results have become more refined and personalised with these changes.

But not everything is changing, as the blog points out, data liberation (taking personal information elsewhere) still remains, and Google pledges not to sell personal information or share it externally without permission.

From Concerns to Criticisms

The official Google blog on the privacy policy update notes that this change has long been requested by regulators, and having one policy covering several products is “fairly standard” online. Despite this Google still became subject not only to suspicion but criticism, particularly from rival company Microsoft, which according to The Herald ran a full-page newspaper ad criticising Google and its new policy. In the ad, Microsoft pointed out how their users don’t have to worry about the content of their emails being used to help target online ads, something Google has obviously done but isn’t ashamed to admit. For Google, it is simply better Adwords management- placing relevant ads in the right places to the right kind of audience- a move that benefits users by eliminating the ads they would otherwise ignore and likewise benefits those involved in Pay per click and search engine optimisation. It just so happens to also benefit Google by eventually boosting their ad revenue.

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