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Developments related to Google privacy initiative


On Tuesday, European regulators asked Google to clarify its new privacy policy and make it easier for users to opt out. Here's a look at developments related to Google Inc.'s new privacy initiative:

Jan. 24: Google announces a plan to link user data across its email, video, social-networking and other services. The company says the move will simplify its privacy policy, improve the user experience and help advertisers find customers more easily, especially on mobile devices. Critics raise privacy concerns. The plan is to take effect March 1.

Feb. 1: Rival Microsoft Corp. runs full-page newspaper ads slamming Google and its new policy. Microsoft uses the opportunity to tout its own Web-based alternatives, saying for instance that users of its free email service, Hotmail, don't have to worry about the content of their emails being used to help target ads.

Feb. 3: The European Union's data protection authorities release a letter to Google asking the company to delay the new policy until they have verified that it doesn't break the bloc's data protection laws. Google says it had briefed data protection agencies beforehand and had heard no substantial concerns then.

Feb. 28: France's regulator says a preliminary analysis finds that Google's new policy appears to violate European data-protection rules. The regulatory agency CNIL says Google's explanation of how it will use the data is too vague and difficult to understand "even for trained privacy professionals."

March 1: The changes take effect.

Oct. 16: European regulators ask Google to clarify its new privacy policy and make it easier for users to opt out. France's data protection agency, which led the European investigation, outlines three major concerns: It's not clear enough in explaining to users what data are collected and how they will be used; it's too difficult for users to opt out of data collection and combination; and Google doesn't always say how long it will hold onto data. Google says the company is reviewing the report but believes its policy respects European law.


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