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By unifying its data across services and by offering no opt out, Google is breaking privacy laws in the EU

Google Inc. (GOOG) may be an outspoken critic of spying by the by U.S. National Security Agency (NSA), but these days it's in hot water over spying of its own.  Google was already shown to be circumventing privacy settings in Microsoft Corp.'s (MSFT) Internet Explorer and Apple, Inc.'s (AAPL) Safari in a purposeful attempt to disregard users' wishes in order to pump up profits.  Google also was found to be using its Street View cars in a worldwide snooping campaign on those who were naive enough to leave their network unencrypted.
 
Now Google is ruffling more feathers over its new unified data Terms of Use, which rolled out early last year.  Under its new terms Google and its affiliates -- which include the company's ad-network affiliates -- may put cookies on your computer to track your browsing history.  Further data on your usage of different Google services (e.g. YouTube, Gmail, etc.) is combined into a single profile that Google uses to target ads at you -- a use that Google doesn't explicitly asking your permission for.
 
The Netherlands has become the latest country to cry foul over this approach.  Dutch data protection director Jacob Kohnstamm says that Google's tactics are not only questionable -- they explicitly violate local privacy laws, "Google spins an invisible web of our personal data, without our consent. And that is forbidden by law."

Search on Google
Dutch regulators say Google's new terms of use violate the law by having no opt-out to monitoring.  [Image Source: Google Images/Unknown]

In The Netherlands, user internet activity is protected under the Dutch Data Protection Act [Wet Bescherming Persoonsgegevens], with the Dutch Data Protection Authority [College Bescherming Persoonsgegevens] (Dutch DPA) tasked with enforcement of the law.  In its press release the Dutch DPA writes:

Google does not adequately inform users about the combining of their personal data from all these different services. On top of that, Google does not offer users any (prior) options to consent to or reject the examined data processing activities. The consent, required by law, for the combining of personal data from different Google services cannot be obtained by accepting general (privacy) terms of service.

In, Europe Google has a more dominant search position than in the U.S.  In the EU, Google has held as much as 86 percent of the search market; currently it has around an 80 percent market share, according to Reuters.  This is much higher than in the U.S., where its market share is currently around 67 percent, according to market research firm Comscore.

Amsterdam, Netherlands
Amsterdam, Netherlands [Image Source: IASA Global]

While Google has tentatively settled an EU complaint accusing it of manipulating search engine results to boost its own services, it's still facing probes, investigations, and fines over the Street View and unified Terms of Service privacy issues.  These regions are looking to make sure that no one is monitoring users without permission -- whether its the U.S. government, or Europe's top search provider (Google).  Google is facing similar fines over the unified user data in France and is under investigation in Germany.  German regulators already fined Google a small sum (€145,000 -- roughly $196,000 USD) last year for the Street View offenses.

Source: Dutch DPA



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Include me
By Ammohunt on 12/2/2013 2:05:14 PM , Rating: 5
I am moving towards a Google free way of life abandoning their services for anything important mainly because of privacy concerns; same reason i deleted my Facebook account. I don't mind targeted ads but mining my data for ads directed at others goes to far(yes i know you can opt out).




RE: Include me
By prophet001 on 12/2/2013 2:28:38 PM , Rating: 2
Hey, me too.


RE: Include me
By nikon133 on 12/2/2013 3:29:46 PM , Rating: 1
Likewise, I'm switching to alternatives. I still have Gmail account, but I'm using it as a black hole - when I need to give email but don't want to have anything from that source (outside of registering for forums etc). It is basically my fake email address, nothing of any importance goes over it.

I have additional gripe with Google, being Windows Phone user, I disagree with their treatment of my platform of choice, especially YouTube affair.


RE: Include me
By Argon18 on 12/2/13, Rating: -1
RE: Include me
By StevoLincolnite on 12/3/2013 5:53:06 PM , Rating: 1
quote:
Hey, you chose the Windows FailFone, you knew in advance it couldn't run youtube.


Funny. I can play Youtube video's just fine on my Windows Phone 8.
Granted, I have to open a browser, but you can pin web browser pages to the tile screen, so it's really a non-issue.


RE: Include me
By Reclaimer77 on 12/2/2013 3:46:33 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
I have additional gripe with Google, being Windows Phone user, I disagree with their treatment of my platform of choice, especially YouTube affair.


But you're okay with Microsoft patent trolling Android vendors? Hell they've pretty much helped bring HTC to it's knees.

Why don't you blame Microsoft for not giving you a robust ecosystem without relying on outside services? You knew what you were getting into when you bought into that dilapidated Windows Phone nonsense. Why blame Google?


RE: Include me
By rsmech on 12/2/2013 10:26:06 PM , Rating: 2
Any comments on Google data mining?


RE: Include me
By troysavary on 12/3/2013 12:08:07 AM , Rating: 2
Maybe if Google wasn't so prone to steal, whether it be patents or data, they wouldn't always be in court.

And what is this about robust ecosystems? You were defending ChromeOS a couple days ago. An ecosystem doesn't get much weaker than that. Walled gardens suck, until Google does it, I guess.


RE: Include me
By Reclaimer77 on 12/3/2013 12:21:18 AM , Rating: 1
You're showing yourself to be a typical ignorant Google hater spreading FUD. Google doesn't "steal" anything, I suggest you look up what the word means.

quote:
You were defending ChromeOS a couple days ago.


Actually I wasn't. I was criticizing the points Microsoft chose to hatchet ChromeOS over. Out of all of ChromeOS's weaknesses, they focused on the most inconsequential one imo.

Their argument is like saying the smartphone is a "brick", because you aren't always guaranteed a stable data connection. Well, who cares?

quote:
Walled gardens suck


You're just all full of fail tonight, aren't you? ChromeOS is an OPEN SOURCE project, just like Android. How in the hell is it a walled garden?

Get back to me when you actually know wtf you're talking about, it would be SO refreshing.


RE: Include me
By rsmech on 12/3/2013 1:32:14 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
Google does not adequately inform users about the combining of their personal data from all these different services. On top of that, Google does not offer users any (prior) options to consent to or reject the examined data processing activities


Steal may be a bit strong but cheated or mislead may be more appropriate. How else would you fell when things aren't what they seem.


RE: Include me
By troysavary on 12/4/2013 11:10:51 PM , Rating: 2
It only runs Chrome browser apps. That seems pretty walled to me. But of course, your are so in love with Google, so cannot understand any criticism. And yes, Google does steal, both US and EU courts have said so. I and others have repeatedly given examples, but you stick your fingers in your ears and scream about Google being picked on.


RE: Include me
By sprockkets on 12/2/2013 7:54:37 PM , Rating: 1
So, going to the mobile site isn't enough huh?

Oh, let's all feel sorry for poor little MS, after screwing users with IE6, Win9x and XP, locking us in with no choice.

And with them hiring a professional political mudslinger to throw crap via their scroggled campaign, they won't get youtube ever.


RE: Include me
By rsmech on 12/2/2013 10:24:35 PM , Rating: 2
Are they mudslinging or telling you how it is?


RE: Include me
By sprockkets on 12/2/2013 11:46:08 PM , Rating: 1
A t-shirt from Microsoft says Chrome steals your data.

Only in MS and perhaps the RDF at apple would that be true.


RE: Include me
By Reclaimer77 on 12/3/2013 12:28:56 AM , Rating: 1
quote:
A t-shirt from Microsoft says Chrome steals your data.


Yeah. I wouldn't have a problem with Microsoft's "Scroogled" campaign if they were actually offering an alternative.

But let's be clear, Microsoft is running an advertising business with pretty much the same exact business model as Google's.

Microsoft's problem with Google isn't that they get user info to sell advertising. Microsoft's problem is Google does it so much better and more profitable than they can.

And they are just relying on the general person's ignorance to push the message of the Google boogeyman forward.


RE: Include me
By rsmech on 12/3/2013 1:47:57 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
Microsoft is running an advertising business with pretty much the same exact business model as Google's.


Is this another assumption. You keep forgetting Apple and MS have other ways to make money.

Of the 3 there is no bigger data miner than Google. Is Android bad, no. Is Google search bad, no. Are Google services bad, no. The extent of their data mining, yes.


RE: Include me
By Reclaimer77 on 12/3/2013 3:26:49 AM , Rating: 2
Another assumption? I've made NO assumptions, it's just a fact. Of course Microsoft sells ads just like Google does. How do you think they provide advertisers an opportunity to target their audience without tracking down your data? They have to be "mining" your data to target ads to you! It's called AdCenter. It mines data. Look it up.

Again Microsoft's entire "Scroogled" campaign is based on hypocrisy. They are doing the exact same thing Google does. Their only beef is that not enough people use Bing, so they make less ad money.

quote:
The extent of their data mining, yes.


Extent? Are they stealing your credit card info? Bank accounts? Passwords? What exactly are they "mining" from you besides data that you leave behind everywhere you go on the web?

Just about every site you go to uses tracking cookies, FACT.

Now if you don't like the fact that Google puts it all together in order to profit from you, okay fine. But let's drop the hyperbole that your web activities are somehow private, or ever WERE private, before Google came along. The illusion you have of web anonymity is just that, an illusion.


RE: Include me
By rsmech on 12/3/2013 6:17:06 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
The illusion you have of web anonymity is just that, an illusion


The difference is with Google your front door is wide open. I use web searches quit often for work and I have no recollection in the past 5 years of receiving even 1 unsolicited email pertaining to any search I've done work related. I don't use Google. So in all honesty I don't understand what anyone is talking about when they say ads are a given. If it's an ad on my search page it's so unobtrusive that I don't recall ever seeing one. So there obviously must be a difference.


RE: Include me
By rsmech on 12/3/2013 12:32:45 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
Chrome steals your data


I forget everyone knowingly opted in. These are baseless investigations.


RE: Include me
By GotThumbs on 12/2/2013 4:57:32 PM , Rating: 4
So...?

What are the Google alternative products/services?

How free and how ad-free are they?


RE: Include me
By Ammohunt on 12/2/2013 6:47:47 PM , Rating: 2
I run my own mail server over my home dsl so i consolidated mail services there. Chat i haven't switched from yet(i was spooked to find all my google chats going back years associated with my gmail account) i am half tempted to setup a openfire server and inviting the few folks i chat with to use it.


RE: Include me
By Reclaimer77 on 12/2/2013 7:22:56 PM , Rating: 1
Paranoid much? You can chat from the Gmail page itself. Why would you be spooked that they associated your chats, for YOUR CONVENIENCE there?

While you're at it just set up a point to point VPN tunnel to all of your friends and bypass the spooky Internet altogether!


RE: Include me
By rsmech on 12/2/2013 10:27:35 PM , Rating: 2
Is it your convenience or theirs?


RE: Include me
By Ammohunt on 12/3/2013 1:40:37 PM , Rating: 2
I don't log my chats locally why would i want them remotely on a Google server? Its all data Google can mine for whatever unknown purpose. This is the topic of dicsussion on this thread; not paranoia but privacy the same thing that rail against the NSA for. So trust Google with your personal data but not the NSA?


RE: Include me
By MechanicalTechie on 12/2/2013 6:51:34 PM , Rating: 2
If you dont know, then you clearly haven't looked.

I'll start you off

www.duckduckgo.com


RE: Include me
By sprockkets on 12/2/2013 7:51:05 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
I don't mind targeted ads but mining my data for ads directed at others goes to far(yes i know you can opt out).


What are you referring to? That made up story about ads that get targeted at others by email sent to your gmail account?


RE: Include me
By inperfectdarkness on 12/3/2013 7:36:22 AM , Rating: 2
Agreed. I deleted my FB account years ago. I only have Google Voice, just so I can keep an old phone #. And "opting out" is an intentionally inane and complex process meant to baffle those of even adept intelligence.

Fortunately for me, I have FF, ABP, Ghostery and NoScript. Google and everyone else can pretty much go F-themselves.


Easy Solution....for all you whiners
By GotThumbs on 12/2/2013 4:55:24 PM , Rating: 2
All Google needs to do is give every user an option:

If you wish to use our products/services for free, you understand we will use your information to support this "FREE" service to you, by using your activity to provide you with ads related to your interests, based on your actual activity. Your web activity and email content is ONLY used to provide meaningful ads to you and continues to support our daily operations and feed the families of our 46,000+ employees.

If you wish to opt out of the Free service supported by ads...you can still use our products/services for a nominal fee. You will be billed a daily use fee of $1.00-$5.00 depending on how many of our services/products you use. Please provide your CC'd info on the next page.

Thank you and have a great day...Google.

Simple solution eh?

Don't like the cost of a "FREE" service....build you own. If/when you do.....You won't be giving it away for free for very long I'll bet. Employees, Hardware and electricity cost money in the real world.

~Best wishes keeping what you earn.




RE: Easy Solution....for all you whiners
By troysavary on 12/3/2013 12:09:11 AM , Rating: 2
We do have an option. Say FU to Google and abandon their services. More and more people are taking that route.


RE: Easy Solution....for all you whiners
By Reclaimer77 on 12/3/2013 12:23:22 AM , Rating: 2
LOL "FU Google!! I'll give my data to someone else for free! Muhahahaaa!!!"


RE: Easy Solution....for all you whiners
By rsmech on 12/3/2013 1:17:55 AM , Rating: 2
The others actually sell a product to make their money. Google sells you for profit. Google needs your information for profits more than the alternatives.


By Reclaimer77 on 12/3/2013 3:30:04 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
The others actually sell a product to make their money.


Except that business model cannot work for Google. They cannot charge money for web searches or email. Can you imagine them even trying? God no, it would be a disaster.

quote:
Google sells you for profit.


And I get absolutely nothing in return of course.

Oh wait...

I'm not being 'sold'. But you're being an idiot.


RE: Easy Solution....for all you whiners
By troysavary on 12/4/2013 11:19:59 PM , Rating: 2
Yes, I will. I'll give it to people I trust with it more. Why can't you understand that people no longer trust Google? Google's whole business model is based on mining your data. They have absolutely nothing else that makes profit for them. Nothing. They are just as bad as Facebook in that respect.
It isn't just data mining though that has them in hot water with regulators. It is purposely circumventing privacy measures users take. Or stealing WiFi data. Sure, you think that isn't stealing, but the courts disagree with you. Unfortunately for Google, fanboys don't make the laws.


By Reclaimer77 on 12/5/2013 4:19:54 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
Why can't you understand that people no longer trust Google?


That's hyperbole, sorry. All data suggests Google's services are as massively popular as they ever were. If people don't 'trust' Google, they have a funny way of showing it.

Google has the most popular and used mobile OS
Google has the most popular and used video hosting website
Google has the most popular and used Internet search
Google has the most popular and used webmail service

Notice a theme? You guys talking about hiding in shelters and going "Google free" are the wacko minority. Please don't speak for all of us.

quote:
Google's whole business model is based on mining your data.


The ENTIRE Internet now runs on that business model. Just more FUD on your part.

Ask yourself, when was the last time you actually directly paid for a web service, website access, or email? Why do you think all the things you can do online are free of charge?

quote:
It isn't just data mining though that has them in hot water with regulators.


The same regulators who took 10 years to allow mobile computing use on airplanes? The same regulators who gave us a patent system completely unable to function in the digital age? The same regulators who took 20 years to make net neutrality official?

Yeah place your faith in these people when it comes to technology issues! A bunch of old people who grew up on the AM radio in an age where the entire world fits in a pocket sized device, are making the rules for everyone.

quote:
Sure, you think that isn't stealing, but the courts disagree with you.


More hyperbole. No "court" of any significance has ever ruled Google's practices as being theft. Certainly no court has ever ruled on data mining as you're suggesting.

In fact the last time the Supreme Court made a ruling on data mining, the practice was upheld! Sorrell v. IMS Health, 10-779.

Are you going to bring more to this than impotent hate, lies, and exaggerations?


I'm Not A Frickin' Lawyer
By bitmover461 on 12/3/2013 10:24:59 AM , Rating: 2
Something needs to be done about software license agreements. For home use, by the average user, they should be written in plain verbage and readable in 20 seconds or less. Let corporate lawyers battle over commercial use, but personal use should be under completely different (read simplified) rules.




Opting out
By JonnyDough on 12/4/2013 5:09:40 AM , Rating: 2
I'm beginning to opt out of more and more things that large companies have to offer. If the FTC isn't going to do it's job I'll be part of a free market to sort things out. To list a few I'm starting to want to avoid: Walmart, Apple, Verizon, Google. I buy American when I can and I avoid things from Mexico and China. No need to give drug cartels more money, or our new overlords.




"You can bet that Sony built a long-term business plan about being successful in Japan and that business plan is crumbling." -- Peter Moore, 24 hours before his Microsoft resignation














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