Feeds

Google stung by more privacy complaints over Buzz

Data watchdogs wade into row

The smart choice: opportunity from uncertainty

Canada's privacy chief is the latest high-profile politico to hit out at Google for its ill-considered stealth launch of Buzz in Gmail earlier this year.

The country's privacy commissioner Jennifer Stoddart penned a joint letter to Google's CEO Eric Schmidt in which data protection authorities from Canada, Israel, the UK, France, Spain, Ireland, Italy, New Zealand, Germany and the Netherlands lambasted the company for overlooking privacy values and legislation.

"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," reads the letter.

It goes on to accuse Google of failing to "set a better example" and said that the privacy regulators from around the world who had signed the letter remained "extremely concerned about how a product with such significant privacy issues was launched in the first place."

The letter goes on to point out that slapping a "beta" tag on a product, which Google is famed for doing with much of its tech, did not mean the company could flagrantly brush aside "fair information principles".

"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," it reads.

It asked Google to lead by example, in the somewhat optimistic hope that other online companies that overlook privacy rights in their products might follow suit.

The regulators want Mountain View to adopt a set of "privacy principles" that include collecting and processing only the minimum amount of personal information needed by a Google product or service, providing better disclosure to its users and creating privacy-protective default settings.

The missive is the latest in a string of privacy stings Google has suffered at the hands of lawmakers and commissioners since slotting Buzz into Gmail without any of its users' prior consent in February this year.

Last month US lawmakers called on the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to probe privacy complaints about Google's Buzz, following a tirade of grumbles that greeted the creepy injection of the real-time Twitterbookish tech into the ad broker's free email service.

In February high-profile public advocacy group - the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) filed a complaint with the US FTC against Google Buzz.

The Register asked Google to comment on the latest privacy bashing from data protection authorities.

"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. Google Dashboard, the Ads Preferences Manager and our data liberation initiative are all good examples of such initiatives," said a Google spokesman.

"Of course we do not get everything 100 per cent right - that is why we acted so quickly on Buzz following the user feedback we received.

"We have discussed all these issues publicly many times before and have nothing to add to today's letter - instead we are focused on launching our new transparency tool which we are very excited about." ®

Securing Web Applications Made Simple and Scalable

More from The Register

next story
NO MORE ALL CAPS and other pleasures of Visual Studio 14
Unpicking a packed preview that breaks down ASP.NET
Cheer up, Nokia fans. It can start making mobes again in 18 months
The real winner of the Nokia sale is *drumroll* ... Nokia
Mozilla fixes CRITICAL security holes in Firefox, urges v31 upgrade
Misc memory hazards 'could be exploited' - and guess what, one's a Javascript vuln
Put down that Oracle database patch: It could cost $23,000 per CPU
On-by-default INMEMORY tech a boon for developers ... as long as they can afford it
Google shows off new Chrome OS look
Athena springs full-grown from Chromium project's head
Apple: We'll unleash OS X Yosemite beta on the MASSES on 24 July
Starting today, regular fanbois will be guinea pigs, it tells Reg
HIDDEN packet sniffer spy tech in MILLIONS of iPhones, iPads – expert
Don't panic though – Apple's backdoor is not wide open to all, guru tells us
prev story

Whitepapers

Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Seven Steps to Software Security
Seven practical steps you can begin to take today to secure your applications and prevent the damages a successful cyber-attack can cause.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.