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Google founder in talks with EC's Reding

Shy search genius visits Brussels

Google is remaining tight-lipped about co-founder Larry Page's Wednesday meeting with Viviane Reding, European commissioner for the information society, but was very forthcoming about the rest of his visit to the European Union's capital city.

The European Commission declined to comment on the meeting beyond describing it as "informal". Unlike most meet-and-greet visits to commissioners by well known people from the business world, the Commission's satellite news service Europe by Satellite (EBS) was instructed not to film Reding with Page, at Google's request.

"It's a private meeting that's supposed to be informal so we didn't want the press there," said Google's spokesman in Brussels, Bill Echikson.

Page took time out from his summer holiday in Europe to visit Belgium. In addition to meeting Reding the co-founder of Google met some young interns working at the European Parliament, visited Brussels' famous medieval square, the Grand Place, and dropped in on one of Google's data centres near Mons, southwest of Brussels.

Instead of being tempted by some of the finest restaurants in Europe, the down-to-earth software genius ate a pizza lunch with colleagues at their desks in the Brussels office, Echikson said.

"He's never been to Brussels before so he decided to add it to his vacation itinerary," Echikson said. He declined to comment about what his boss would talk about with the Commissioner.

There are several topics that could crop up during the meeting. Reding's responsibilities include e-privacy, a relevant topic for many Google products including search, the Streetview function in Google Earth that allows users to see images of locations in many cities, Gmail and cloud computing in general.

A letter from 37 respected American and European academics to Google's CEO Eric Schmidt, dated Tuesday, warned that cloud computing puts email privacy at risk. Gmail, along with rival email products from Yahoo and Microsoft, use the http internet protocol, which is easy to hack.

The academics urged Google to switch to https, the protocol banks uses to transmit data across the Internet. Reding's spokesman, Martin Selmayr couldn't confirm if the commissioner would ask about the letter during her meeting with Page but he said the Commission is "studying the letter very carefully".

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