BRUSSELS The European Union's data watchdog
will take another few months to decide whether Google Inc
(GOOG.O) or other Web search engines may be violating EU
privacy laws, a participant in the watchdog's meeting said on
The EU body, made up of national protection supervisors of
the bloc's 27 member states, said earlier this year that Google
seemed to be failing to respect EU privacy and expanded its
investigation in June to other Web search engines.
"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 official said
after the so-called Article 29 Committee met on Wednesday.
"We want to adopt a comprehensive opinion, saying how long
they can keep data, and which ones," the official said.
When users carry out searches, Google gathers information
about their tastes, interests and beliefs that could
potentially be used by third parties, such as advertisers, but
the company says it never passes on the data.
Google wrote to the EU data watchdog in June saying the
company was ready to curtail the time it stored user data to a
year and a half.
That storage time was the low end of an 18- to 24-month
period it had originally proposed to regulators in March.
The best-known search providers include Google, Yahoo Inc
YHOO.O, Microsoft Corp's Live Search (MSFT.O) and Ask.com,
which is owned by IAC/InterActiveCorp IACI.O.
The watchdog advises the EU on privacy rules. It has no
legal power and its opinions are not binding.
(Reporting by Ingrid Melander, editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)