Is Google habitually abusing your privacy?

Another data protection commissioner slams Google’s intrusive privacy policy

  • – Ignored warnings that privacy policies violate data protection laws

  • – Failed to destroy all data collected by Street View cars

  • – Gmail sued for violating California privacy laws

Image credit Flickr / Luisar

Mick Meaney |

Google has come under more fire from the French data protection commissioner and other European data protection chiefs, over the companies controversial privacy policy.

It has emerged that Google will be forced to revert back to a legal version of the policy, which it changed in March 2012 despite uproar from privacy campaigners and law makers at the time.

The CNIL — one of the more aggressive European data protection commissioners — will tell Google to undo those changes, and recreate the setup that existed before, said Chris Watson, a partner and privacy expert at the London law firm CMS Cameron McKenna.

According to the Guardian, Chris Watson said:

“By putting the CNIL in charge of this, the EU was going for blood.

“It was a declaration of intent. The point is that Google is an international company which is leveraging its power in the browser and its other services in a way that affects national businesses all over the EU. There’s great political importance in the data protection commissioners doing something, because if they think there’s a breach and they don’t do anything about it, what’s the point of having them?”

The new policy takes all the information the company has about you, from each Google service you use, and combines it together into one single user profile.

This means your personal information is being shared across multiple platforms, for instance; the information you share with Youtube is being transferred to Gmail, or any other Google product you use.

The changes are illegal because they did not give users the opportunity to opt out, and reverting back has been likened to “unscrambling an egg”.

Also speaking to the Guardian, a US-based lawyer who specialises in digital privacy law, Bradley Shears,  said:

“Since Google had the technical capability to combine the data of all of its users’ accounts it should have the ability to reinstate the previous barriers that acted like a digital Chinese wall between its services that better protected user privacy.

“Since Google refused to heed the EU’s prior warnings that changing its privacy policies may violate data protection laws it would not surprise me if restrictions are placed on how Google may utilise the user data profiles it has created since the new policies went into effect. This [EU] decision may restrict Google’s ability to fully monetise its users’ personal data across its platforms and may cost Google tens of millions of dollars in lost revenue.”

However, this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Google’s privacy issues.

The company recently admitted that it did not destroy all personal data collected from its Street View cars.

Despite being ordered to destroy the data for the third time in an 18 month period, Google had kept two disks that contained personal information that it obtained by scanning unsecured wi-fi networks.

Australian Privacy commissioner, Timothy Pilgrim, expressed concern:

“I remain concerned that this data still exists, given that Google previously confirmed that all data relating to this issue had been destroyed.

“I have advised Google that it is important that there is no further Street View Wi-Fi data in Google’s possession requiring destruction.”

“I have asked Google for further information about their audit process to allow me to better understand the steps taken during the review of their disk inventory.”

And the revelations don’t stop there.

It was reported  last week that the company is being sued for allegedly breaching the California Invasion of Privacy Act.

The law in question states that “a person” must be intercepting the communication for it to be in violation of the law. The plaintiffs argue back that Google’s machines can be considered “a person” for the purpose of this law. Google says the plaintiff’s claim contorts state law “in ways the California Legislature never intended.”

The  lead plaintiffs Brad Scott and Todd Harrington, believe:

Gmail conducts clandestine scans of emails for words and content, intentionally intercepting private communiqué as a result without obtaining the user’s permission.

Of course Google denies the claims, stating Gmail is using a:

Fully automated processes that involves no human review of any kind.

Mick Meaney is the editor of RINF News, created as a response to increasing levels of control, distortions and lies from the government, corporations and the media.