Posts Tagged ‘data protection’

EU examination of Google’s data retention practices extended to 2008

By Nate Anderson | Published: October 11, 2007 – 12:30PM CT

The Article 29 Working Group, which advises the EU on data protection issues, has been looking into search engine privacy practices for some time. The group appears to have a special fixation on Google, which is the dominant player in most European countries apart from the Czech Republic. Now, an official from the group has just revealed that the inquiry into data retention practices will drag on into next year.

“We have written to Google to say that we are continuing our work, that it is not limited to Google, and that we will adopt an opinion at the beginning of 2008,” an unnamed official told Reuters after the most recent working group meeting. “We want to adopt a comprehensive opinion, saying how long they can keep data, and which ones.”

Google has its own ideas about this. It would love to keep data forever, only anonymizing it after two years or so. Europe thinks two years might be too long, and the inquiry has already prompted Google to voluntarily anonymize data after only 18 months instead.

Google is also under examination by a different part of the European Commission after it announced plans to merge with DoubleClick. That move is being evaluated by the Commission, which looks set to pursue an in-depth inquiry into the deal. The Article 29 report could well be released just as the Commission finishes up looking at the deal. Though the reports are technically unrelated, both will deal with the issue of Google’s massive data retention and so could provide fodder for critics of the company.

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EU puts on monocle, prepares to examine Google/DoubleClick merger

By Nate Anderson | Published: October 05, 2007 – 12:50PM CT

Microsoft just finished a long and hellish trip of its own through the EU competition wringer, and it looks like Google has a good chance of enjoying similar treatment. The European Commission has already announced that it is looking into the proposed Google/DoubleClick merger and plans to report back by October 26 on whether a full-scale examination of the deal is warranted. Thomson Financial now reports that the EU will in fact conduct such an examination.

If the news, which is based on sources close to the matter, turns out to be true, it won’t be particularly surprising. In addition to the European Commission’s own decision to launch an initial examination of the merger, opposition has surfaced in various places across Europe. BEUC, the European Consumers’ Organisation, has made the issue one of its current concerns.

In a letter sent to several EU officials, the group worried that “Google will vertically-leverage (bundle/tie) its keyword search dominance with DoubleClick’s leadership in online banner/video display advertising, and with its Google-YouTube dominance in video search. This vertical combination could give Google-DoubleClick clear dominance on the overall market for advertisements provided to third-party web sites.”

This worry is compounded by the fact that Google dominates the search market as well in most European countries. It has a 90 percent market share in Germany, 82 percent in France, and 75 percent in the UK (it comes in second in the Czech Republic, however).

Dr. Thilo Weichert, who handles data protection issues for the German state of Schleswig-Holstein, has also made his concerns known (German) to the EU’s Competition Commissioner, Neelie Kroes. His letter expresses concern over data security issues and the privacy of personal information collected by the combined company.

An EU inquiry of the merger shouldn’t be nearly as painful as what Microsoft went through; Google and DoubleClick haven’t yet merged and aren’t accused of illegal behavior. The EU could place limits on Google’s expansion in the EU (something that looks unlikely here in the US), but this won’t be an issue of fines… not that this would make the Googlers any happier about having their collective will thwarted by a regulator.

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