The Article 29 Working Party, an independent group which represents 27 data protection authorities from the European Union, and an executive from the European Commission told Google to stop what they are doing to harvest personal data of Google users.
The European privacy groups want to examine Google thoroughly before they can give it any approval. In a letter to the CEO of Google, Larry Page, this is what the group wrote:
“We wish to check the possible consequences for the protection of the personal data of these citizens in a coordinated way,”
“In light of the above, we call for a pause in the interests of ensuring that there can be no misunderstanding about Google’s commitments to information rights of their users and EU citizens, until we have completed our analysis.”
Viviane Reding, who is in charge of data protection for the European Commission, fully supports the investigation of Google to make sure that the company complies with their laws to protect Europeans from violations against their privacy and their personal information.
The European Commission takes privacy very seriously. In fact, they recently set out plans to adopt more effective, comprehensive, and stringent polices to protect the data of individuals. Some steps they want to implement are to give users the ability to demand Internet companies, such as Google, to not sell their personal information to advertisers. They also want companies to delete all data they have of people completely if asked to do so because people should have the “right to be forgotten”.
European countries have already been banning Google. The Norwegian public sector agencies have been banned from using any Google applications due to concerns that personal data of citizens is in serious jeopardy. In 2011, a town in Denmark banned Google applications from being used in schools because of privacy concerns. The German government has taken steps to secure its data from Google and France is particularly worried about leaving its classified information on Google computers.
Europeans are especially concerned about the Patriot Act in the United States, which demands that companies operating within America are to hand over all information to the government if asked to do so. The Electronic Frontier Foundation, an American organization which fights to protect the rights and freedoms of Internet users, estimates that Google is subpoenaed thousands of times a year. You will never know that your personal data has been given away to government agencies because Google does not have to tell you.
Just how creepy does it get? Well let me give you three examples: last summer a British soccer star named Rio Ferdinand visited the White House and snapped some photos of himself with White House staff. He later posted it on Twitter and within a mere few seconds the photos vanished. This is what the soccer star tweeted after his photos were removed: “Whoa….some1 has got into my phone + taken down my pics off twitter….this is deep…is jack Bauer in Washington?!” He went on to tweet this, “Training just done in DC….feels kinda weird…feel like I’m being watched by some undercover jack Bauer type dudes…phone hacked into” . Read about the full story here
In another incidence, which happened just a few weeks ago, two British youth were detained by US Border agents because before their arrival one of them posted something on Twitter that was misconstrued as a threat to the United States. It’s all so ridiculous, amusing, and scary at the same time. It’s just another example that everything you do is being watched closely. You can read the rest of what happened by clicking here
And finally, a member of parliament of Iceland named Birgitta Jonsdottir had her personal information on Twitter accessed by the US government because of her involvement with Wikileaks. You can read the full story here
Twitter was forced to hand over this information but, to give the website the credit it deserves, it seems like they were resistant to this violation of privacy against people but had to comply with US laws.
Google on the other hand is a lot more secretive and knows a lot more information about users. I love what a McGill University student wrote in a student newspaper about Google when she called the company “the biggest of the Big Brothers”. You can read about it here
Google’s chairman Eric Schmidt has said this in the past:
“If you have something you don’t want anybody to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place”
He is absolutely correct – maybe people should seriously think twice about using Google services. The Europeans have already thought long and hard about it and they banned Google in many areas of their life.