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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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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.


"Mac OS X is like living in a farmhouse in the country with no locks, and Windows is living in a house with bars on the windows in the bad part of town." -- Charlie Miller














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