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EU privacy verdict on Google set for new year

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European data watchdogs will deliver their judgement on whether Google's data warehousing policies are violating privacy laws in the new year.

Reuters reports an official from the Article 29 Working Group said yesterday: "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.".

The probe was launched in May, and expanded to cover the other main search engines in June.

Google aimed to head off European criticism of its policies by cutting the period before it anonymises search logs from two years to 18 months.

By comparison, AOL anonymises after 30 days, and Ask.com offers a version of its search that doesn't retain any user data at all.

After its pre-emptive strike. Google's privacy lawyer Peter Fleischer began playing down the Working Group's opinion, emphasising that the Data Retention Directive it is investigating under covers only public databases.

In July he said: "It's interesting to me to hear what an official from the data protection world thinks about data retention, but it's like asking somebody who works for the railroad what they think of airline regulation. It's just not their field."

The Article 29 Working Group provides the European Commission with independent advice on data privacy, but has no powers of its own. ®

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