EU investigates Google on data privacy rules

An independent European Union panel is investigating whether Google's Internet search engine abides by European privacy rules, which tend to be stricter than those in the US, an Associated Press report said.

The Associated Press report quoted EU spokesman Pietro Petrucci as saying that the 28-member panel, which advises the European Commission and EU governments on data protection issues, wants Google to address concerns about the company's practice of storing and retaining user information for up to two years.

'This group has addressed a letter to Google raising a number of questions,' Petrucci was quoted as saying.

The Associated Press report said EU Justice Commissioner Franco Frattini backs the investigation.

'He considers those questions raised by the letter to be appropriate and legitimate,' Petrucci said.

The report also quoted Peter Fleischer, Google's global privacy counsel, as saying that the company was doing a lot to protect personal data gathered from users on its search engine.

Google said it would answer the EU's privacy concerns before the panel's next meeting at the end of June, the report said.

The EU move follows recent action in the US, where a consumer group asked the Federal Trade Commission to investigate Google's privacy protections, the report added.