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European Watchdogs Challenge Google Over Its Privacy Policy

timothy posted about a year ago | from the only-the-government-gets-to-spy-so-much dept.

EU 35

Trajan Przybylski writes "Information rights authorities in the UK, Germany, and Italy threatened to take legal action against Google if the company does not change its unified privacy policy. In its latest statement the ICO, Britain's information watchdog said Google's privacy policy implemented in March 2012 may not comply with the UK Data Protection Act. Many privacy activists and commentators have been critical of the data unification practice with some claiming the data sharing across web services carries serious risk of compromising people's identities as many users are not even aware their data is freely passed between Google-owned services."

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Britain's information watchdog?? (0)

FriendlyLurker (50431) | about a year ago | (#44225307)

Are they the ones that go through the three day "full take", every packet stored [spiegel.de] data store?

Re: Britain's information watchdog?? (1)

gstoddart (321705) | about a year ago | (#44225601)

No, they're the ones who are supposed to defend the privacy and security of personal information, you're thinking of GCHQ.

Governments and really large corporations usually have departments whose job is to prevent the stuff done by another department.

Re: Britain's information watchdog?? (1)

thetoadwarrior (1268702) | about a year ago | (#44227507)

While GCHQ's spying isn't good at all they are part of the government and not a corporation which means they generally get to do more just as they can start a war and Google cannot. I know fanboys think the world of their favourite brands but they need to be punished when they do wrong.

Should we fear Google or NSA/GCHQ more? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44225315)

NSA/GCHQ could act against our interests, but can be tempered with regulation, and overseen by government.

Google provide a conduit for information to NSA/GCHQ whether you like it or not, and exploit our information by design.

People Don't Know? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44225369)

People don't realize that websites that all are clearly owned by Google share data? Give me a break.

Re:People Don't Know? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44226799)

I agree, especially if they're read ANY of the ToS documents.

lol. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44225543)

Like the UK has any moral high ground anymore when it comes to privacy.

Re:lol. (1)

lxs (131946) | about a year ago | (#44228321)

That's right. Governments, nations, whole continents even are monolithic entities where everybody looks the same and has the same agenda.

Google is merely a branch of the NSA (0, Troll)

0111 1110 (518466) | about a year ago | (#44225673)

So much for do no evil. From a user perspective Google servers are indistinguishable from NSA servers. Google webmail is really NSA webmail. Google's relatively recent privacy policy changes and mandatory account unification were likely dictated by the NSA.

Re:Google is merely a branch of the NSA (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44225933)

Your tinfoil hat, it's slipping.

I'll leave aside first two unsubstantiated claims, and just poke your logic out of interest:

What use is data sharing clause, if everything you send to any Google's services can already be read by NSA? Do you really think it went like "Hey, we've got all this data from you, but we don't have the permission to correlate it across the services (even though user account is still the same), why don't you ask user's permission to let us do that?"

Srsly, are you a government shill hired to make those who call attention to PRISM et al. look like conspiratards?

Re:Google is merely a branch of the NSA (1)

Runaway1956 (1322357) | about a year ago | (#44226173)

Google gets into the news for working to deny government access to user data. Frequently, even. Google may have some evil elements, but Google doesn't belong to government.

The real problem is, that the NSA has taps into the backbones, and they have active telecom cooperation.

You're trying to imply that when government snaps it's fingers, Google either rolls over and plays dead, or sits up and begs. That accusation is much more accurate when applied to the telecoms.

Also - I point your attention to AC's response.

Not surprising ... (1, Informative)

gstoddart (321705) | about a year ago | (#44225781)

I bought a new Android tablet the other week. In clicking around I opened the YouTube application -- next thing I knew the damned thing had created an account for me on YouTube without asking me.

I don't want a YouTube account, and I didn't tell you to create one for me. Give me the damned option to run the app without a damned account.

Google has one interest, and that's harvesting as much info about you as possible. I fear my tablet will end up having a lot of the stuff disabled to keep Google at bay with their crap.

I used to like Google, but increasingly they're becoming an entity I don't put any more trust in than I absolutely must -- and unfortunately, everyone seems to be going in the same direction.

Re:Not surprising ... (1)

AmiMoJo (196126) | about a year ago | (#44227395)

In clicking around I opened the YouTube application -- next thing I knew the damned thing had created an account for me on YouTube without asking me.

This sounds somewhat improbable. How did it generate a username and password for you, for example?

The only explanation I can think of is that it picked up your Google account and you are confused. Since YouTube is owned by Google the same account can be used on both, so nothing new was actually created.

Re:Not surprising ... (1)

gstoddart (321705) | about a year ago | (#44228161)

This sounds somewhat improbable. How did it generate a username and password for you, for example?

You are correct -- the App took my google credentials, and logged me into YouTube without asking and sent me an email welcoming me to YouTube.

I subsequently deleted the account in the YouTub app, re-launched it, and it did it again.

I subsequently disabled the YouTube app. An application which doesn't ask my permission before it signs me into something isn't something I want.

If I was to hit YouTube without being signed in, it would work fine -- but I didn't ask to be signed in, and have no desire to sign into YouTube.

Just because Google thinks their stuff is awesome and I should be signed up for it all, doesn't mean I agree -- I don't want their stupid Google+ either.

Re:Not surprising ... (1)

AmiMoJo (196126) | about a year ago | (#44228495)

I checked and you can log out of your account just in the YouTube app. It logs you in by default because that's what most people want, but I have a couple of different accounts and I can use any of them or none at all.

Just go back to the YouTube home screen in the app, press menu and select "sign out".

Re:Not surprising ... (1)

gstoddart (321705) | about a year ago | (#44229659)

Just go back to the YouTube home screen in the app, press menu and select "sign out".
Yeah, did that. And the next time you launch YouTube on the Nexus 7, it re-attaches the account without asking you.

Which is why I've disabled the damned app altogether.

Re:Not surprising ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44239999)

I don't know what is going on on your device, but it doesn't do that on my Nexus 7.

Re:Not surprising ... (3, Insightful)

swillden (191260) | about a year ago | (#44228021)

AFAIK, there is no such thing as a YouTube account any more; it's been merged with the Google+ account system. I think what actually happened was one of two things: either you didn't have a Google+ account and one was created (more precisely, your Google account was "upgraded" to a Google+ account), or you did have one and just didn't realize that it was being used for YouTube.

In either case, if you don't want to have a Google+ account, you can delete it, either effectively downgrading it to just a Google account or you can delete your Google account entirely. Be aware, though, that a lot of Google's other services are tied to your Google account, so only delete it if you don't use Google's other services: don't buy apps on the Play store, don't use Calendar or Contacts, don't want Google to back up your device settings, don't want search history automatically propagated between your web browser and mobile device, etc., etc., etc. Personally, I think having the account adds a lot of value to both my mobile experience and my desktop experience, and I'm also of the strong opinion that I'd rather have a single Google account across all of Google's services (and to use it for single sign-on to many other web and mobile properties) rather than manage a bunch of separate accounts, but I'm biased. You can make your own evaluation and choose appropriately; most of Google's services and products can be used without an account, except where that really doesn't make sense.

(Disclaimer: I work for Google -- I'm pretty sure I'd feel the same even if I didn't work for Google, though. Note that I don't work on any of the aforementioned stuff, and am really just speaking as a knowledgeable user, albeit one who has a fairly high degree of trust in Google's competence and intention to behave responsibly with my data and use it to help me, because a big part of my job is securing the data to prevent leakage and internal abuse).

Re:Not surprising ... (1)

gstoddart (321705) | about a year ago | (#44229409)

either you didn't have a Google+ account and one was created (more precisely, your Google account was "upgraded" to a Google+ account), or you did have one and just didn't realize that it was being used for YouTube.

Yes, it used the existing Google account as a login.

I've been studiously avoiding Google+ because a) it's yet another pointless social media turd, and b) because Google+ has a real name policy I don't agree with. Why the hell should I be required to use my full name on the internet to satisfy some asshole in marketing? Fuck that.

I like some of Google's stuff, but they've been more and more aggressively pushing me towards the rest of their shit, and acting in a way that I don't want or trust.

And, no, I don't want Google to propagate my search results, browser history, and marketing crap everywhere I go. In fact, some times I want to not have Google track a single thing I do.

And, in the end, over the last few years Google has become hostile to privacy -- and I don't necessarily trust the intentions of your glorious leader. So google analytics is blocked at the firewall.

Google is entity that I can't fully escape, but that doesn't mean I'm gonna drink the Kool-Aid and sign up for every damned thing they make.

Re:Not surprising ... (1)

swillden (191260) | about a year ago | (#44230345)

b) because Google+ has a real name policy I don't agree with.

Google backed off on that policy, FYI. There are lots of pseudonyms on Google+.

And, no, I don't want Google to propagate my search results, browser history, and marketing crap everywhere I go.

I really like that I can do a search on my desktop, then later when I'm out, say, driving to the place I searched for, I can repeat the search on my phone with a single character, or even less, because my phone knows what I searched for on the desktop. YMMV.

And, in the end, over the last few years Google has become hostile to privacy

Do you have any examples of where Google has disclosed or otherwise behaved irresponsibly with user data? I think Google is very careful to maintain user privacy. But -- as I already said -- I'm biased. (Aside: you might point at PRISM as an example of misbehavior, assuming you think Google's statements about that are lies. I think Google is being truthful.)

and I don't necessarily trust the intentions of your glorious leader

That's certainly your prerogative. Personally, based on the exposure I've had to said intentions, I have strong confidence in Larry Page. Execution may not always match intentions, of course, and there is always the possibility that eventually other leadership will take over (though given the stock voting structure that's not going to happen until Page and Brin decide to allow it), but for the foreseeable future I don't see Google turning evil.

But, if you disagree Google enables you to opt out. In some cases that means not using Google services, of course, because that's the deal: you get those services in exchange for allowing Google to show you targeted ads, and accurate targeting requires Google to know something about you. Google wants you to make an informed decision on that deal, and wants to make its services so valuable to you -- and the risk so low, through careful stewardship of your data -- that you like the deal. But if you don't, you absolutely should opt out.

So, delete your Google+ profile, and avoid doing whatever you did to create it. Or, if you prefer, delete your Google account, or just remove it from your phone/tablet. It's your choice.

Re:Not surprising ... (1)

lxs (131946) | about a year ago | (#44228413)

Google data analysis isn't all that clever. I ordered a pair of sunglasses last week and the rest of the day I received ads for even more sunglasses. A smart algorithm would have tried to sell me suncream or a cool hat that would look good with the glasses. But no. Google decides that I need ten pairs of cheap sunglasses to go with the expensive pair I already bought.

Re:Not surprising ... (1)

RaceProUK (1137575) | about a year ago | (#44236031)

A smart algorithm would have tried to sell me suncream or a cool hat that would look good with the glasses.

Or an album by ZZ Top.

Ah, the irony (4, Insightful)

intermodal (534361) | about a year ago | (#44225787)

People log in with one account, yet they somehow may not be aware that their information may be sharing between different parts of one account?

Personally, I'm surprised people don't just consider Google to be one service with many facets at this point.

Re:Ah, the irony (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44225931)

I have to agree, as much as I hate to give corps. leeway with data (as they will always do the worst thing they can get away with) expecting Google to not tell Google about something you told them is taking it a bit far.

I am pretty much ok with moving my data around to different parts of as long as they don't move that data to or send it to or .

Re:Ah, the irony (1)

intermodal (534361) | about a year ago | (#44226083)

Believe me, I'm as un-thrilled as you are, but it is what it is. If you give your information to Google, you're a fool to assume Google doesn't know what you told Google.

Re:Ah, the irony (1)

theRunicBard (2662581) | about a year ago | (#44226729)

Oh, if I had mod points, you'd get them. This IS what Google wants. They've openly said it. I'm not saying it's smart but I am saying Google was honest about that. The UK can just use the NSA search engine instead.

Re:Ah, the irony (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44231911)

I've been wondering about how businesses use google for so much. Doesn't this give google an insider view of business happenings? Couldn't that give them an advantage over stocks, or knowledge thereof? I know I used to work for a small locally owned company that competed with rather large competitors. The buy-out was to remain a secret, so to not alert our competitors. Once we switched to the new company's rules and all, we were left to use google for all email, and calendars. I voiced my opinion against it (this was all prior to our hero Edward Snowden (which, how weird is the name "Snowden" when he's in Russia, snowed in?)), saying that "...it's not going to be a secret if google knows..." but no one cared.

In the future, look for google to be a required part of life, as in, one day, you may log in to google using your S.S. number.

Re:Ah, the irony (1)

swillden (191260) | about a year ago | (#44246877)

I've been wondering about how businesses use google for so much. Doesn't this give google an insider view of business happenings?

It would if Google looked. I'm sure Google's enterprise agreements state that Google will hold the customer's information confidential and will not use it except in defined ways that have to do with providing the service. Getting caught violating such agreements -- or even suspected of violating such agreements -- would be far more harmful to Google's business than any benefit that could be derived, not to mention the fact that it would violate Google's own code of conduct. Individual employees could peek and try to misuse the data, but Google is quite careful to secure the data and to audit access, and all Google employees are told in strong words at the beginning of their employment that inappropriately access customer data (even the employee's own!) is grounds for immediate termination.

Google takes security and confidentiality seriously, and has apparently done a good job of convincing its many enterprise customers that it does so.

(Disclaimer: I work for Google, though the above is my own opinions and perceptions and does not represent any sort of official communication. It's just me talking.)

mod .down (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44226035)

anyone that t]hinks previously thought

This is retarded (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44226699)

Sorry for the term, but it is. Google wants all their services to be one thing. Whether or not that's smart as far as business goes, it should be legal. What part of this is the UK not getting? They know you're the same person on maps that you are on gmail and they want your accounts to reflect that. Even if Google reversed the policy, do you really think they wouldn't know who you are? "Oh, abc logged in from the same ip address as xyz for five years straight and chats with the same people." What... what do these people think they will accomplish by taking on Google here? Are they just bored?

Re:This is retarded (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44230593)

Think more along the lines of when they buy up a new venture - cf Youtube.

fake grandstanding BS (1)

slashmydots (2189826) | about a year ago | (#44227021)

Oh yeah, because Britain is so pro-privacy. It's fake grandstanding to get the people convince they're pro-privacy when they practically have a camera up every resident's ass.

Re:fake grandstanding BS (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44227179)

Don't you mean "arse"?

Re:fake grandstanding BS (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44231193)

It's true. We've had a spate of robberies in our street over the last year. Although the area is camera'd up the wazoo, they never seem to be able to catch any of them on the recordings. The logical conclusion is that the cameras are indeed inserted up various rectums.

The only thing they're good for are for spying on normal citizens, it adds absolutely nothing to safety or security.

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