Google stung by more privacy complaints over Buzz

Data watchdogs wade into row


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." ®

Similar topics

Broader topics


Other stories you might like

  • AI tool finds hundreds of genes related to human motor neuron disease

    Breakthrough could lead to development of drugs to target illness

    A machine-learning algorithm has helped scientists find 690 human genes associated with a higher risk of developing motor neuron disease, according to research published in Cell this week.

    Neuronal cells in the central nervous system and brain break down and die in people with motor neuron disease, like amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) more commonly known as Lou Gehrig's disease, named after the baseball player who developed it. They lose control over their bodies, and as the disease progresses patients become completely paralyzed. There is currently no verified cure for ALS.

    Motor neuron disease typically affects people in old age and its causes are unknown. Johnathan Cooper-Knock, a clinical lecturer at the University of Sheffield in England and leader of Project MinE, an ambitious effort to perform whole genome sequencing of ALS, believes that understanding how genes affect cellular function could help scientists develop new drugs to treat the disease.

    Continue reading
  • Need to prioritize security bug patches? Don't forget to scan Twitter as well as use CVSS scores

    Exploit, vulnerability discussion online can offer useful signals

    Organizations looking to minimize exposure to exploitable software should scan Twitter for mentions of security bugs as well as use the Common Vulnerability Scoring System or CVSS, Kenna Security argues.

    Better still is prioritizing the repair of vulnerabilities for which exploit code is available, if that information is known.

    CVSS is a framework for rating the severity of software vulnerabilities (identified using CVE, or Common Vulnerability Enumeration, numbers), on a scale from 1 (least severe) to 10 (most severe). It's overseen by First.org, a US-based, non-profit computer security organization.

    Continue reading
  • Sniff those Ukrainian emails a little more carefully, advises Uncle Sam in wake of Belarusian digital vandalism

    NotPetya started over there, don't forget

    US companies should be on the lookout for security nasties from Ukrainian partners following the digital graffiti and malware attack launched against Ukraine by Belarus, the CISA has warned.

    In a statement issued on Tuesday, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency said it "strongly urges leaders and network defenders to be on alert for malicious cyber activity," having issued a checklist [PDF] of recommended actions to take.

    "If working with Ukrainian organizations, take extra care to monitor, inspect, and isolate traffic from those organizations; closely review access controls for that traffic," added CISA, which also advised reviewing backups and disaster recovery drills.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022