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Will the Google Privacy Investigation Be an Opportunnity or an Opportunity Lost?

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When you think of Privacy issues two names come to mind; Facebook and Google. For some reason both of these companies feel they have the right to mess with their users’ right to privacy. In some cases, like Facebook, you see services that are set to opt-out suddenly popping up or a collection and use of personal data that is not clearly defined (like the use of personal pictures in ads). For Google this has been an ongoing issue and one that has gotten them into a great deal of trouble in the EU. Not that long ago Google was asked to fix this and it seems that they have not only maintained their course, but have also made things worse by their inaction

The basis for the argument is that Google is collecting a large amount of user data, but the end users have no ability to see what data is being collected. An EU commission started an investigation into this back in October 2012 and directed Google to make changes to this. The changes would be tools to allow users to see that type of data collected, manage this data and also a requirement on Google to make sure they did not keep too much private data. This was shortly after Google tried to create a single privacy policy to cover all of their services. In response to the investigation Google stated “Our privacy policy respects European law and allows us to create simpler, more effective services”.

Now Google’s failure to act has put them in the spotlight of more than on agency. This is coming right on the heels of their Privacy Director, Alma Whitten leaving the company. The move cannot look good for Google who has a history of pushing the limits of what they can and cannot collect about their users as well as who actually owns the data and information stored on Google’s servers (in Gmail, Google Docs etc). Google needs to make some progress on this instead of trying to stick to their stance that a single policy is better. Even a cursory look at their policy shows that it is all about efficiency for Google and not the consumer. It also gives them a large amount of leeway in interpreting what Google and can and cannot do with user Data and files.

This will be an interesting one to watch, if the EU agencies do this right it could send a message to large companies that user data and privacy is important and that companies like Google and Facebook cannot do with it what they want. If they do not push this then it will be a slap on the wrist and things will get worse for personal privacy.

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Last modified on Monday, 08 April 2013 06:13
Sean Kalinich

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