Google chief joins Commission privacy advisory body

Google's privacy law expert has been appointed to a committee which will advise the European Commission on data protection policy. Google has previously clashed with EU privacy watchdogs on data protection issues.

Google's global privacy counsel Peter Fleischer is one of five members of the Data Protection Expert Group (DPEG), which the Commission said was a temporary and informal expert group.

Fleischer will be joined by a German and a Belgian lawyer, the chairman of the Dutch data protection authority and chip maker Intel's director of security policy, David Hoffman.

The appointments mean that two of the five expert group members will be senior US executives.

The group intends to meet five times next year and will inform the Commission of any issues it sees emerging which might have implications for data protection policy.

The group's mandate is to assist in the preparation of legislation in the data protection area, and to help it in the definition of its policy.

An unrelated EU data protection authority, the European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS), has confirmed that incumbent Peter Hustinx will serve a second five year term as Supervisor. Hustinx was the first Supervisor on appointment in 2004.

Following the decision of assistant supervisor Joaquin Bayo Delgado not to continue in his role, a new assistant has been appointed. He is Giovanni Buttarelli, who was secretary general of Italy's Data Protection Authority.

The EDPS is the body charged with ensuring that the organisations which govern the European Union comply with data protection laws. The office also issues opinions and guidance on data protection and privacy issues.

The EDPS and the umbrella body for the EU's data protection watchdogs, the Article 29 Working Party, have clashed in the past with Google's Fleischer. The biggest dispute has been over the retention by Google of records of people's use of its search engine.

Google prompted a debate on retention when it announced it would no longer keep logs indefinitely, but would delete them after 18 months. Data protection authorities argued that logs should be kept for no longer than six months.

Google eventually conceded that the EU's Data Retention Directive did not apply to the information, and has said that it will now only keep records for nine months.