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Google asked to change privacy policy

PARIS--European regulators have asked Google to clarify its new privacy policy and make it easier for users to opt out of it because of concerns that the Web giant may be collecting too much data and holding it for too long.

France's data protection agency led a European investigation into Google's new unified privacy policy, which replaces individual policies for its search, email and other services, and regulates how it uses the personal data it collects. The policy allows Google to combine data collected from one person using its disparate services, from Gmail to YouTube.

That gives Google a powerful tool for targeting the user with advertising based on his or her interests and search history. Advertising is the main way the company makes its money.

The collection of data is not just limited to people with accounts to Google applications. The web giant can collect information from anyone who visits a website that has a link to its services — for example, a Google map posting. The French agency said that of the top 500 most-visited sites in France, 90 percent had a link with Google.

With that kind of power, comes responsibility, the agency said.

The agency outlined three main concerns about the new policy: it's not clear enough in explaining to users what data is collected and how it will be used; it's too difficult for users to opt out of data collection and combination; and Google doesn't always say how long it will hold onto data.

The agency also noted that, under the new policy, Google doesn't differentiate between data collected, so a search term and a credit card number are treated the same and can be used for any purpose stated in the policy.

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