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 Privacy Officials criticize Google

Privacy watchdogs from 10 countries (among them UK, France, Germany, Israel, Canada, New Zealand) have written to Google to protest about the company’s disregard for data protection laws. The letter especially criticizes the way Google Buzz was introduced: "...we are increasingly concerned that, too often, the privacy rights of the world’s citizens are being forgotten as Google rolls out new technological applications.  We were disturbed by your recent rollout of the Google Buzz social networking application, which betrayed a disappointing disregard for fundamental privacy norms and laws.  Moreover, this was not the first time you have failed to take adequate account of privacy considerations when launching new services. ... In essence, you took Google Mail (Gmail), a private, one-to-one web-based e-mail service, and converted it into a social networking service, raising concern among users that their personal information was being disclosed.  Google automatically assigned users a network of “followers” from among people with whom they corresponded most often on Gmail, without adequately informing Gmail users about how this new service would work or providing sufficient information to permit informed consent decisions. This violated the fundamental principle that individuals should be able to control the use of their personal information. ... It is unacceptable to roll out a product that unilaterally renders personal information public, with the intention of repairing problems later as they arise.  Privacy cannot be sidelined in the rush to introduce new technologies to online audiences around the world..."


And how should Google behave in the future:

"We therefore call on you, like all organisations entrusted with people’s personal information, to incorporate fundamental privacy principles directly into the design of new online services.  That means, at a minimum:

  • collecting and processing only the minimum amount of personal information necessary to achieve the identified purpose of the product or service;

  • providing clear and unambiguous information about how personal information will be used to allow users to provide informed consent;

  • creating privacy-protective default settings;

  • ensuring that privacy control settings are prominent and easy to use;

  • ensuring that all personal data is adequately protected, and

  • giving people simple procedures for deleting their accounts and honouring their requests in a timely way.

In addition to respecting these broad principles, we also expect all organisations to comply with relevant data protection and privacy laws."




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