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EU launches privacy probe into Google's Internet search engine

An independent panel of the EU has launched a probe into whether US-based Google Inc.'s Internet search engine violates EU privacy rules, local media reported Saturday.

In a letter to Google Inc., the panel, made up of representatives from EU member nations, demanded clarification about the company's practice of storing and retaining personal information taken from users for up to two years, said a spokesman for the European Commission. Peter Fleischer, Google's global privacy counsel, said the company attaches importance to the protection of personal data from users on its search engine.

The company retains the data for security purposes to protect its search engine from hackers and prevent fraud, he added, saying Google would answer the EU's concerns before the panel's next meeting in mid-June. In the United States, three consumer groups also asked the Federal Trade Commission to investigate Google's actions on consumer privacy rights. (