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EU privacy watchdogs extend search engine probe

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EU privacy worrywarts will expand their investigation into Google to other search engines' data retention policies.

According to IDG, European Data Protection Supervisor Peter Hustinx said on Wednesday that his Article 29 working group had decided to write to Google's competitors to ask about the information they keep. The newswire reports the targets include Yahoo!, Lycos and Microsoft.

The plan is to make a general assessment of the effect search engines are having on EU citizens' privacy at either the working group's October or December meeting. Hustinx said: "We will issue a generic paper from which national data protection authorities can address players in their jurisdictions."

In a round of letter writing ping pong with the EU earlier this month, Google agreed to anonymise its log files after 18 months rather than two years. That followed a high profile public ding-dong between Google and Privacy International, after the advocacy group said it was alone online in its "entrenched hostility to privacy".

Hustinx praised Google's action on his concerns, saying: "I welcome a big company that is investing in privacy. This isn't just window dressing." He did note, however, that the dominant player's profluence of services did present a unique challenge in privacy terms, and said its response required further study. ®

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