Britain and Brazil Are Concerned About Google’s “Vague” Privacy Policy

Google is getting a lot more pressure from international privacy watchdogs. This time it’s coming from Britain and Brazil.

Britain’s deputy information commissioner, David Smith, made his first public comments against Google’s new privacy policy last week. His comments against Google’s more intrusive privacy policy was made a week after it took effect. He criticized Google at a conference in Westminster where he said that Google’s new privacy policy is “too vague”:

“The requirement under the UK Data Protection Act is for a company to tell people what it actually intends to do with their data, not just what it might do at some unspecified point in future. Being vague does not help in giving users effective control about how their information is shared. It’s their information at the end of the day”

Other European regulators have recently said that Google’s privacy policy is misleading and fails to disclose the whole truth to its users. The EU data protection authorities are currently working on an investigation of Google and will have their results some time soon. Their preliminary finding was scathing and said that Google’s new privacy policy was difficult to understand “even for trained professionals”.

The European Union takes the privacy of its people very seriously. Their data protection laws from the 1990s are one of the toughest in the world and they recently announced that they plan to revise their laws to make it more stringent and uniform. There is a plan to introduce a “right to be forgotten” which will allow people to demand Internet companies remove personal data about them permanently. Of course, Google is extremely worried that more privacy protections for Europeans will harm their bottom line. The company has been lobbying European authorities for a while now, trying to block any chance of more protections for Europeans to pass.  David Smith said this about the right to be forgotten,

“Google can’t just say: I’m just a messenger, I have no responsibility at all for the messages I carry. Given their dominant role and their huge influence here they have a responsibility to ensure they operate in a fair and reasonable way. Where things are drawn to their attention and it can be established they are delivering content which is defamatory, where it is harmful to individuals and there is no public interest justification Google have a responsibility not to serve up that information”

It’s a good thing that European regulators are keeping a close watch on Google. Let’s hope that they support their harsh words for Google with real action against the company. Later this month, the French data protection authority, CNIL, will release their full report. Data protection authorities from all EU member nations will respect the findings and coordinate their actions against Google. It may include hefty fines and even criminal prosecution if Google doesn’t comply with their laws.

Alright, let’s move away from Europe and head on over to South America – Brazil to be exact. The Brazilian Justice Ministry wants some serious answers from Google and they want it very soon. Brazil doesn’t want to play games with the company and has said that if Google’s privacy policy breaks their laws they will sanction Google. Brazil said a full investigation of Google is imminent if Google doesn’t respond back with satisfactory answers justifying their new privacy policy. The ministry’s Department of Consumer Defense and Protection is particularly concerned about how understandable Google’s new privacy policy is and whether users are fully aware of the implications of using Google’s products.

Interesting – things could get a lot worse for Google and a lot better for the average Internet user. We’ll wait and see how things develop.

For more information:

The Register, “Google’s privacy policy: Incoherent and confusing” – click here

The Telegraph, “Google’s privacy policy branded ‘too vague’” – click here

The Guardian, “Google’s privacy policy ‘too vague‘” – click here

Reuters, “Brazil questions Google’s new privacy policy” – click here

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