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Google responds to EU privacy policy questions, pausing rollout would have 'proved confusing'

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Google has responded to concerns from European regulators on its new privacy policy, answering 24 of the 69 questions posed to it by France's National Commission for Computing and Civil Liberties, while defending its decision to go ahead with the changes while questions of legality still remained.

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The European Union's concerns over Google's new privacy policy have led to a France-led investigation into the changes, and now Google has responded to the first volley of questioning into the matter. In a letter to France's National Commission for Computing and Civil Liberties (CNIL), the company addresses 24 of the 69 questions it was asked in a March 16th letter from the body, stating that the company has "worked hard" to provide a policy that is easily understood by users, and that if the body looks beyond the Privacy Policy alone, Google's products in total follow "the requirements of European data protection laws." Google points to several examples, such as the sharing-disabled default settings of Google+, and the informative statements provided when using the "Find My Face" facial-recognition feature for the first time.

The advisory Article 29 Working Party had called upon the company to hold off on implementing the new policy until concerns about its legality could be addressed, but Google's global privacy counsel Peter Fleischer states that such a move wouldn't have been feasible after the company had moved forward with a notification campaign across all of its products. Stating that a delayed rollout "would have proved confusing to our users," Fleischer also criticizes European regulators for speaking to the media about their concerns. "We find it disappointing that some regulators publicly express doubts of lawfulness without having accorded us any chance to engage on the issues of concern," he writes, noting that Google pre-briefed 18 different regulators on its intentions, none of which asked the company to "pause" its implementation of the new policy. In a sign that tensions are running high, Google's letter even goes so far as to question the very legality of the Working Party itself in appointing the CNIL to conduct the investigation.

Of vital interest is how Google plans to share information it collects on users, something that has garnered attention from US lawmakers as well. The CNIL asked 21 separate questions on the topic in its questionnaire, none of which were addressed in Google's current letter. We shouldn't have to wait too long to hear Mountain View's thoughts, however: according to Reuters, Google will be answering the rest of the questions by April 15th.