Google Earth stand at the Google France new offices. (Jacques Brinon/AP)

In a letter to Google chief executive Larry Page, privacy regulator Jacob Kohnstamm said that European data protection officials would like to examine how the changes to Google’s privacy policy may affect European citizens. He also called for a “pause 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 the analysis is done.

Kohnstamm is the chairman of the Article 29 working group, an advisory group set up by the European Union to examine data protection concerns. It comprises several data protection agency officials from different EU member states.

Kohnstamm said that the group has tasked the French data protection agency, known as CNIL, with this latest analysis. CNIL previously fined Google $142,000 for breaching privacy with its Street View technology in March.

In response to the letter, Google said that it has met with the individual data protection agency officials that make up the group and is open to speaking to them in the future.

On its European public policy blog, the company posted its response to the letter, which reiterates many of the statements that the company has made about it policy in the past and indicates that it is unlikely that Google will delay its policy implementation.

“As you will know, we had extensively pre-briefed data protection authorities across the EU prior to the launch of our notification to users on 24 January 2012,” wrote Google’s global privacy counsel, Peter Fleischer. “At no stage did any EU regulator suggest that any sort of pause would be appropriate. Since we finished these extensive briefings, we have notified over 350 million Google account holders, as well as providing highly visible notices to all our non-authenticated users. In addition, the policy does not come into effect until 1 March 2012, as we wanted to leave more than adequate time for our users to be able to read and understand the policy before it’s fully implemented.”

In a statement, Google spokesman Chris Gaither said the company would be happy to “talk any DPA that has questions through our changes between now” and March 1.


View Photo Gallery: Google announced a new privacy policy and terms of service on Jan. 24. Here’s a look at some of the Google products that will be affected by the policy change.

Related links:

Google announces privacy changes across products; users can’t opt out

Experts: Google privacy shift will hav greater impact on Android users

Joshua Topolsky: Google’s new search services and privacy policy have some calling for a boycott