20 Apr 2010

Et tu, Google?


Late yesterday, Canada’s privacy commissioner, along with data protection authorities from France, Germany, Israel, Italy, Ireland, Netherlands, New Zealand, Spain and the United Kingdom sent a letter to Google CEO Eric Schmidt to express their concerns about privacy issues related to Google Buzz.

Are we unfairly picking on Google? Because the privacy practices we mention in our letter are not Google’s alone – they are representative of an industry-wide habit of launching first, debugging later. But Google is a world leader, and a company that has shown it is not afraid of jumping into the data protection debate. We hope that our letter sends a message to others in the online world as well – your users care about their privacy.

The full letter and news release are available on our site, but here are some excerpts:

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….

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.

We’ve asked Google for a response, but we also want to know what you think. Let us know in the comments section, or join us via webcast and Twitter (hashtag #priv2010) at our first public consultation next Thursday, April 29.


6 Responses

Tweets that mention Et tu, Google?: Late yesterday, Canada’s privacy commissioner, along with data protection authorities from France,... -- Topsy.com Says:

[…] This post was mentioned on Twitter by LawyerNexus. LawyerNexus said: Et tu, Google?: Late yesterday, Canada’s privacy commissioner, along with data protection authorities from France,… http://bit.ly/954oJt […]

Jon Newton Says:

I posted [http://www.p2pnet.net/story/38470] “Privacy watchdogs from around the world today roundly condemned US online advertising gorilla Google saying, ‘we are increasingly concerned that, too often, the privacy rights of the world’s citizens are being forgotten … ‘ ”

However, “We recognize that Google is not the only online company with a history of introducing services without due regard for the privacy of its users,” they state.

I quote the EFF’s Kurt Opsahl [http://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2010/04/facebook-further-reduces-control-over-personal-information] who says, “As Facebook’s privacy policy once promised, ‘No personal information that you submit to Facebook will be available to any user of the Web Site who does not belong to at least one of the groups specified by you in your privacy settings.’ How times have changed. […]

Cheers!
Jon – p2pnet.net

Annie @ Re-Think Says:

I am a big proponent of perpetual betas and of launching things before you know that they are perfect. That is true of design, user functionality, content, etc. However, certain things like privacy should always be worked out 100% before something goes live. Google was way out of line here.

Marc Says:

Hi,

I’m not a great writer or anything, so please excuse grammar & typo’s. But I felt I had to reply to this.

This blog seems geared towards google buzz. But my experience was with google street view. After reading their policies on how to remove images and how it will be done in 24-hrs (which is a joke), it’s very unlikely I will ever use a google product again. They have no regard for people wanting images taken down, nor do they follow their own stated policies in order to protect their product.

I still have the replies they sent, this was my experience with it:

=========
1st attempt:

Sent 6 requests to remove images of my home from google

Received 6 Emails stating they would remove it, “IF they determine they should remove it”:

6 replies I got to the 6 requests to remove images:

“According to our records, you recently submitted a report regarding an inappropriate image in Street View on Google Maps.

We’re currently reviewing the material you reported to determine whether the image should be removed from the product.

We appreciate your assistance.”

24-hrs later they determined they should only remove two from their product:

“Our records show that you recently reported an image within Google Maps Street View. This image has been removed from our service and will disappear within the next 24 hours.

We apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused you and appreciate your patience while we dealt with this.”
—-

2nd attempt:

I requested again that they be taken down and I included more images of my home that I didn’t included from the 1st attempt to be removed:

received 8 confirmations:
“According to our records, you recently submitted a report regarding an inappropriate image in Street View on Google Maps.

We are currently reviewing the material you reported to determine whether the image should be removed from the product.

We appreciate your assistance.”

24-hrs later they decided, at their sole discretion, to remove only 6 of them.

“Our records show that you recently reported an image within Google Maps Street View.This image has been removed from our service and will disappear within the next 24 hours.

We apologise for any inconvenience this may have caused you and appreciate your patience while we dealt with this.”

3rd attempt: Email Titled 3rd request (I was going to write privcom after this)

Sent requests to remove the remaining ones, which they decided they wouldn’t remove from their product as shown in the first two attempts.

24-hrs later I received 6 Email replies from google and they removed it all this time.
=========

All in all, it does not take 24-hrs to remove images from their product as is stated on their website. It takes 6 days. 6-days only if you continue requesting what you originally requested after being ignored. They clearly ignore requests if people follow their policies (policies which google itself ignores), and clearly disregards people wishes. They also clearly state that they will “decide for you if it should be removed or not from their product”. They also clearly decided not to remove many till I said I was going to go to privcom.

So that was my one and only experience with google. I don’t need another with them. Nor do I need to spend another week sending Emails asking the same thing over and over again.

Are you unfairly picking on Google? Not at all. They intentionally ignore people and ignore their own stated policies in order to protect their product. I’m sure i’m not just an isolated case. I also had similar experiences with a few Canadian companies with similar results, or those that gave no result at all.

The “beta” loophole is exactly that. A loophole trying to be passed off by the industry. I also see it with certain Canadian ISP’s who sign people up for a year then state “sorry, but you signed up as beta”, I see it with paid-for online gaming via facebook that the kids use, I see it all over the place. It’s becoming industry standard. When something happens, or when a product doesn’t perform as stated. It’s the same old reply, “It’s beta”. Industry wide excuse.

It’s more than just a privacy problem, it’s a consumers rights problem when money is involved. Why are companies (for example, Bell Canada) signing people up in contract for a beta? Now these same people who are not getting what they paid for are being told, it was a beta, you signed up for a beta, and you are obligated to the term of your contract.

Maybe consumers should tern around and say it’s only a beta contract?

More than just privacy issues at stake being played out with the “beta concept of doing business”.

Marc Says:

An interesting development found out by Germany’s Privacy Commissioner:

http://www.p2pnet.net/story/38788#comments

I never noticed a policy on google.ca about war-driving. What would happen if I did this in Ottawa? Quebec?

Was this done here? It would seem so considering AOL did it in 2007-2008 with their Skyhook product.

Canadian home invasion for a commercial product. I don’t see it any other way.

Google’s latest privacy troubles « code technology Says:

[…] Are we getting the full goods from Google, a company known for its privacy transgressions? […]

Leave a Reply

If you wish to leave a reply, you will be asked to provide your name and e-mail address. Your e-mail address is required for the purposes of limiting spam and contacting you should we have questions about your comment.





To learn more about why this information is collected and how it will be used, please read our Blog Comment Policy.