Google Asking For Trouble With Its New Privacy Policy; EU Official Questions Legality

from the this-is-going-to-end-up-in-court dept

We’ve already discussed EPIC’s silly attempt to legally force the FTC to punish Google for its new privacy policy, but it seems like it didn’t need to bother. There is a fair bit of interest around the globe in smacking down Google for the new policy. Even the FTC (which fought EPIC’s demands) has said that Google’s new setup offers a “brutal” choice to users, in that they agree to the site-wide policy or cut off their Google accounts. But the biggest threat appears to be coming from the EU, where Justice Commissioner Vivane Redding has flat out stated that the new policies violate EU rules and regulations. The Canadians actually say the policy is a step in the right direction, but that the company hasn’t been clear enough with users. Google, obviously, disagrees with these complaints, but there’s no way this doesn’t somehow end up in a legal proceeding on both sides of the Atlantic.

For what it’s worth, I tend to fall in the middle of these, leaning towards the same view as what the Canadian privacy commissioner said. There is actually some benefit for there being a single privacy policy across all sites, but giving users just over a month to process all of this, what it means, and how they want to deal with it does seem a bit abrupt. Also, as much as Google tried, it really failed in showing why this might benefit users, and may have crossed that “uncanny valley” line of suggesting that this would be used in somewhat creepy ways. Furthermore, it does feel like the new setup is a bit extreme in terms of the choices that people have. It would seem that a much more flexible policy would make a lot more sense.

There are ways to avoid having Google collect too much info on you, but they are a bit clunky, even if Google insists otherwise. It seems that a much better policy would have been to have given much more notice for such a change, along with much greater control for the users in terms of how it’s implemented. I don’t understand the gleeful cries of some suggesting that the new setup is a sign of “evil,” but from a positioning standpoint, Google didn’t do a very good job at all in explaining this to users.

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Comments on “Google Asking For Trouble With Its New Privacy Policy; EU Official Questions Legality”

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45 Comments
darryl says:

Masnick MUST serve his masters, the Goolag

There are ways to avoid having Google collect too much info on you,

yes, there are, dont use them… how easy is that.

People are sick of the Goolag, and there are better alternatives.
Masnick needs them onside because he profits from their policies, it’s called a vested interest. You cant be too critical of a company that is your lord and master, who PAYS you.. (cash for comments)..

Sean says:

Redding is pushing for EU regulatory override and policy overhaul and that is the reason for her nonsense. She says it’s illegal without specifying how exactly. I find it hard to believe that Google would draft a policy that is incompatible with regional laws.

So enough already, it’s a non-issue. Google isn’t collecting new data they are re-purposing data they already collect.

Coward (Anon) says:

Enough whining already

Most people treat privacy policies the same way they treat EULAs. They ignore them. Giving people more time to decide what to do would accomplish nothing. The people who care about these things (fogbugzd above obviously) have already made up their minds and either left or decided the new policy is fine. Google should be allowed to have whatever privacy policy it wants (how about simply “We sell everything we figure out about you”). If you don’t like it, don’t use it. Its like the people who complain about TV shows, don’t like the show, don’t watch it. Either others will watch the show or no one will and the show will go off the air. All this hand-wringing over Google’s new policy is just a waste of electrons. The sooner we wrap this up the sooner we can all get back to stealing music to support terrorists.

TDR says:

I’ve had a thought about these anonymous trolls of ours, Mike. You’ve said before that you know that a good number of their IP addresses originate from law offices, yes? Then perhaps you could tell us what those law firms are, that we might put a little dent in their business. Only if you’re sure that’s where they’re coming from, don’t want to make any false positives here.

Spineless No-one says:

Insular browsing

I tend to use different browsers, One for gmail, google documents and logged in youtubing, one for facebook, one for nameless browsing (including non-logged in youtubing and googling), and a seperate one in a VM for financial transactions.

Were I interested in more colourful search results, I’d make a seperate VM for that, if only for the higher risk for infection on those predominatly flesh-coloured sites.

It’s not something to be desired, but might be a reccomendation.

Anonymous Coward says:

Masnick MUST serve his masters, the Goolag

Wait, the Soviets spied by launching a search engine, video host, and a series of other interconnected products that can only be used on a voluntary basis and which can stop being used at any time, then waited a few years before changing the privacy policy to do exactly what every other similar service does?

How devious! No wonder they won the Cold War.

quepea says:

Google is no different than the Government

I have used Google for years because I like it. I do not agree that they should collect and sell everything there is about me to who ever. Yet our government has watched and listened to the world for DECADES! Therefore the only way I see to avoid the watchful eye of Google/government is to live in a cave in the desert and leave society. We will always be watched by someone or something. Google is no different. If not them then Bing, or Yahoo, or Webcrawler. Just my thought on the subject.

Ninja (profile) says:

I have mixed feelings. I do like Google services and I even let them out of adblock but I’ve been avoiding using it for a while now. I open my e-mail at a Browser and navigate on another.

I think there should be an easy opt-out button for any data collection. But you see, Target is doing that in real life and it seems you can’t opt out.. Weird times we live ๐Ÿ˜‰

Suzanne Lainson (profile) says:

Security concerns

My personal wariness about privacy has to do with having so much information about me being collected in one place. Corporate security measures have not been sufficient at many companies so I don’t really trust companies to do a good job with identifiable data collection. At least with credit card companies, if you have been hit with fraud, the card companies limit the damage. In contrast, companies like Google and Facebook are not guaranteeing anything. And as a result, I do very little with my smart phone so there is less to track. For example, I don’t use location-based apps. I won’t log on to Facebook via mobile.

And I have been pulling off info from Facebook each time they change what they do with the data. There have been blatant abuses with Facebook and my account, so I don’t trust the company in the least. (For example, asking me for my mobile phone number as a security protection and then publishing it in my contact info without my permission.)

What you end up with, when users start to doubt the safety of the system, is that people begin changing how they use it, thereby bringing it all down eventually.
More Facebook users are hiding their friends to protect themselves | Internet privacy – InfoWorld

Chuck Norris' Enemy (deceased) (profile) says:

Re:

One point that I made on some other news sites commentary is that you can’t opt out of some info sharing that your mortgage company, your bank, your credit card company, your insurance agency, car loan etc. provide to third parties to target (read: junk mail) you. Companies have been doing this for ages. Now translate to the internet and it is some new threat? And since the internet is Google, let’s blame them. Many dolts said they were headed to Bing or Yahoo! Surprise! They are doing the same info sharing that Google does.

Suzanne Lainson (profile) says:

Re:

People are thinking about the Internet as a public utility these days. While one can argue about why they shouldn’t be concerned about privacy, if they perceive the Internet as a commons area, they want to establish how the commons can be run. While companies may want to gather info, the perceived value to consumers isn’t so high. The “people’s Internet” doesn’t “need” so much data collection.

Chargone (profile) says:

Re:

… …

i love how doing that is actually illegal here.

or at least, there are laws which prevent the creation of systems that would make it viable to do so (in NZ, there is no equivalent of the social security number. if you have the same number in two different entity’s systems (including government departments) it’s by coincidence. or it better be, or they’re breaking some laws.

meaning the only common identifier is your Name.
you create a new account for anything significant they’ll want multiple forms of identification proving you are who you say you are, generally speaking at least one of which must contain your photo, though they’ll usually accept a birth certificate and a couple of extra different ID documents instead, depending.

so, yeah, if you’re getting junk mail it’s either regular circulars or it’s because you’ve signed up for something. the real problem is that once you sign up for mail order catalogs or whatever, the companies seem willfully incompetent when it comes to taking you OFF their lists. still, you don’t get on there without your own input.

makes identity theft trickier too. (that’s Actual identity theft, not the banks trying to weasel out of their responsibility to deal with bank robberies). it is possibly easier to convince One system that you’re someone else…. but doing so doesn’t unlock all the others for you as well. the person who’s identity you’re taking will probably notice before you’re done.

jilocasin (profile) says:

Biggest problem is changing the terms after you've paid for something.

I think the biggest problem is the one sided nature of it all. Google reserves the right (like practically every other company out there) to change it’s terms whenever it wants for whatever reason it wants.

That’s bad enough when you are using what’s essentially a free service; search, gmail, etc. The bigger problem I see is changing things on you after you’ve bought something. If I’m paying for Google Docs,Gmail, etc. then what gives Google to change the terms of my contract unilaterally?

If I bought an Android phone and am locked into a two year contract with my carrier based in part on Google’s privacy policy at the time, what gives them the right to unilaterally change it?

I still haven’t seen an answer to these two situations. Telling people that they can just stop using Google doesn’t really cut it in these cases.

Anonymous Coward says:

although i disagree with the changes Google have implemented, why is Viviane Redding unhappy about this but not worried about peoples data being given out freely, based only on an accusation of copyright infringement, to the entertainment industries? storing, releasing, losing or using data is storing, releasing, losing or using data and it can be used in any way wanted, once it has been obtained

Suzanne Lainson (profile) says:

Re:

although i disagree with the changes Google have implemented, why is Viviane Redding unhappy about this but not worried about peoples data being given out freely, based only on an accusation of copyright infringement, to the entertainment industries?

Europe has always had stricter laws about data collection than the US. So companies have had to modify their policies to do business in Europe. This isn’t really a new thing. But the scope of Google’s data collection (the many different ways it can collect data and then put it altogether to create profiles of people) especially puts it on the radar. That’s what happens when companies want to work their way into people’s lives at every level and then want to monetize that ubiquitousness. That’s why I have a huge problem with Facebook’s goals and refuse to play along. I won’t run all my web activities through Facebook, though the company keeps trying to find ways to encourage people to do that.

I didn’t sign up for Google+ because I was unsure of Google’s privacy policies for that, and now I am glad I didn’t. As data collection becomes more aggressive, I am modifying my web usage.

Between companies wanting to create massive files on you, and hackers continuing to find ways to break into servers, it does make you want to retreat and live as much of your life off-line as possible so it isn’t all up for grabs.

Yes, we’ve lived with cookies for a long time, but when they started, the pitch was, “We’ve just linked it to your machine, not to you personally.” Now, there’s no pretense that this data collection is anonymous. Companies want to know every detail of your life: what you buy, where you go, who you know, etc. And the benefits returned aren’t always that useful to you. In fact, if anything, it just becomes a way to bombard you with more commercial messages that you’ll probably not want. If you aren’t buying (either because you are trying to save money or because you want to consume less), then you don’t want messages about buying no matter how targeted they are.

Suzanne Lainson (profile) says:

Security concerns

For the Internet, No More Innovation for the Fun of It – NYTimes.com: “I?m increasingly wary of downloading an app, or signing up for a new service or Web site, for fear that the creator had an ulterior motive. Does Angry Birds really need to take my address book when I install it on my phone? Will I really want to see constant warnings popping up to tell me an app is taking this or that bit of once-private data?

For many other people, the privacy debate is eroding trust on the Internet.”

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