EU Attacks Google for "Risking" User Privacy With New Policy
October 16, 2012 2:29 PM
Regulators demand Google offers an opt-out to its inter-service data-set merger
Google Inc. (
), the king of internet software services, is taking fire from privacy regulators in a number of European Union member states over
I. Privacy Regulators Accuse Google of "Risking" User Privacy
With the update, Google rolled the policies across all its services
into a single policy
. It also hinted that it may be merging its cross-service data into a single gargantuan data set, which will mine a number of sensitive private details, including location, interests, age, sexual orientation, sexual habits, relationship status, religion, political views, health concerns, employment status, and more.
That change has EU regulators alarmed.
Google is looking to mine your sensitive personal data to a greater extent
than has ever before been possible. [Image Source: Amazon.com]
In a letter signed by 24 of the EU's 27 data regulators, plus representatives from Croatia and Liechtenstein, the officials write, "Combining personal data on such a large scale creates high risks to the privacy of users. Therefore, Google should modify its practices when combining data across services for these purposes."
Regulators accuse Google of risking user privacy for profit. [Image Source: Gizmodo]
Significantly, the EU stopped short of saying Google's actions currently are violating EU antitrust laws. But it did offer up a list of 12 requests that it would like Google to comply with in order to safeguard users. Most of those requests involve clarifying the details of how certain kinds of sensitive information (say credit card numbers) would be mined and curated.
II. EU to Google: Give Users an Opt Out
But the crucial suggestion is that Google make clear whether it is planning to merge its cross-service data sets (Google hasn't quite said that it is, although most analysts believe that is what it's planning based on the latest terms of service (ToS) language). Moreover, they ask that Google give EU users an opt-out of the data set merger.
That's something, which will likely frustrate Google. After all, a larger richer data set means better tracking and more ad revenue -- more money in Google's pocket. If users opt out the cross-service tracking, they will potentially gain greater privacy, but likely at the cost of Google's profits.
The EU wants Google to allow users top opt out of the data-set merger.
[Image Source: My eCRM]
Thus some expect Google will fight the opt-out request, unless it is mandated. Chris Watson, a lawyer at CMS Cameron McKenna LLP,
In a statement
So all things considered, this letter may prove only an open statement in a game of chicken played by EU regulators and Google, both of which are eyeing the other waiting for them to back down.
The debate may eventually be mirrored in the U.S., where
Congress has asked Google similar privacy questions
, both regarding its wired and mobile presence.
Google [via Engadget]
"So if you want to save the planet, feel free to drive your Hummer. Just avoid the drive thru line at McDonalds." -- Michael Asher
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