Leaders of data protection from 10 nations – Canada, France, Germany, Israel, Italy, Ireland, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Spain and the United Kingdom – have written a letter to Google CEO Eric Schmidt expressing their concern about some of the privacy issues connected with a few of Google’s services, specifically Google Buzz and Google Street View.
“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,” the letter stated. “In essence, you took Google Mail (Gmail), a private, one-to-one web-based e-mail service and converted it into a social networking service, raising concern among users that their personal information was being disclosed.”
While many believe this is Google’s biggest problem, Google quickly worked on a solution and the nations mentioned that in the letter: “To your credit, Google apologized and moved quickly to stem the damage.”
The letter continued by discussing a number of issues that have caused heated privacy debates within Google Street View. “In that instance, you addressed privacy concerns related to such matters as the retention of unblurred facial images only after the fact, and there is continued concern about the adequacy of the information you provide before the images are captured,” the letter stated.
The letter concluded by asking Google for a response and listed a number of suggested principles that Google should integrate within its services.
“We therefore call on you, like all organizations entrusted with people’s personal information, to incorporate fundamental privacy principles directly into the design of new online services. That means, at a minimum:
- collecting and processing only the minimum amount of personal information necessary to achieve the identified purpose of the product or service;
- providing clear and unambiguous information about how personal information will be used to allow users to provide informed consent;
- creating privacy-protective default settings;
- ensuring that privacy control settings are prominent and easy to use;
- ensuring that all personal data is adequately protected, and
- giving people simple procedures for deleting their accounts and honoring their requests in a timely way.”
Google has yet to respond to the letter, though, it’s not likely that they will be pleased to see tension between themselves and further nations arise. However, the letter is not exactly Google’s primary concern, since they are still trying to work on the battle with China.