Google has repeatedly shown a “disappointing disregard” for safeguarding private information, the privacy officials from 10 major countries have warned.
Britain’s Information Commissioner Chris Graham and equivalent officials from Canada, France, Germany and Italy were among the signatories to a letter to the search giant’s chief executive, Eric Schmidt, which condemned the way the company has delivered both its Streetview mapping service and its Buzz product, which was conceived as a rival to social network Facebook.
The letter, organised by Canada’s Privacy Commissioner Jennifer Stoddart, calls on Google to lay out how it will meet concerns about its use of public data in the future, and says that it has “violated the fundamental principle that individuals should be able to control the use of their personal information”.
The search giant has already acted to address a number of the points now raised in the letter, but said that it had no further statements to make on its privacy policies.
The launch of the Buzz network in February sparked an international wave of protests because it took information about email users’ most common correspondents and automatically built each individual a network of followers.
This meant that links which people wished to keep private could immediately become public- without any warning or opt out opportunity.
Google Streetview, which provides an eye-level picture of almost every street in dozens of cities around the world, continues to cause “concern about the adequacy of the information [Google] provides before the images are captured”, the commissioners said.
The product has also been launched some countries “without due consideration of privacy and data protection laws and cultural norms”, they added.
In a statement Google said that it had quickly rectified the problems that caused Buzz users concern. “We have discussed all these issues publicly many times before and have nothing to add to today’s letter,” the search company said. “Of course we do not get everything 100% right. We try very hard to be upfront about the data we collect, and how we use it, as well as to build meaningful controls into our products.“
The commissioners, however, said that they “remain extremely concerned about how a product with such significant privacy issues such as Buzz was launched in the first place”.
Dr Search has repeatedly warned about Google’s blatent disregard for your data security. Their response above does nothing to allay those fears. You have again been warned.