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Developments related to Google's privacy concerns

Thu, 04/26/2012 - 5:41pm
The Associated Press

Some developments related to Google Inc. and privacy:

March 30, 2011: The Federal Trade Commission announces a settlement with Google. The search-engine and advertising company agrees to adopt a comprehensive privacy program to settle federal charges that it deceived users and violated its own privacy policy when it launched a social-networking service called Buzz. The settlement mandates independent audits to oversee and verify Google's privacy program every other year for the next 20 years. The settlement also requires Google to obtain user consent before sharing consumer information with third parties if it alters a service to use the data in a way that would violate its existing privacy policy.

Jan. 24, 2012: 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. 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 as scheduled.

April 13: In a separate matter, the Federal Communications Commission fines Google $25,000, saying the online search leader "deliberately impeded and delayed" an investigation into how it collected data while taking photos for its "Street View" mapping feature. The FCC also says it will not take action against Google over its data collection. Part of the reason for that is that it still has "significant factual questions" about the Street View project that haven't been answered.

Thursday: Google disputes the FCC's characterization of the probe and says the FCC was the party that took its time. Google argues that the 17-month inquiry would have gone much more quickly if the FCC hadn't dawdled so much. Google says it accepted the fine to close the case.

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