Tag Archives: The Telegraph

A British Android Smartphone Owner Sues Google Over Privacy Policy Bait-And-Switch

 Google’s new company slogan should be: “Another Day – Another Lawsuit”

As more and more people start waking up from their blissful slumber, expect to see more legal nightmares for Google. After Google deliberately bypassed the privacy and security settings of Apple’s Safari web browser so that Google could spy on those users – several Apple Safari users filed a class-action lawsuit against Google for violating their privacy and intentionally exposing them to other potential threats.

Well now – a British man named Alex Hanff has filed a lawsuit at a small claims court to demand reimbursement from Google for about £400. That is how much it will cost him to replace his Google Android smartphone.

Mr. Hanff says that Google left him with no other option but to discard his phone completely when the company decided to go ahead and implement their new more intrusive privacy policy – despite public outcry asking the company to reconsider.

He says that because Google changed their privacy policy, they broke the contract terms he agreed to when he purchased his smartphone. He bought the phone under the understanding his personal information would be used in one way and now Google said they will use it in different way. Mr. Hanff isn’t going to let Google pull a bait-and-switch on him. He said,

“The changes are a significant infringement of my right to privacy and I do not consent to Google being able to use my data in such a way”

It’s an expensive change for Britain’s estimated 9.3 million Android users who are not allowed to opt-out of the new privacy policy. All they can do is either accept increased intrusion to their privacy or give up their phones altogether. If Google is going to force people to accept the new policy, then Google should be forced to pay people back the money they deceived them out of.

Last week, Attorneys General from 36 US states and territories sent a strongly worded letter to Google asking them to give consumers an opt-out option from Google’s new privacy policy. They said that Google’s privacy policy will lead to various violations of their privacy and it will be expensive for people to escape Google. They wrote:

“This invasion of privacy will be costly for many users to escape. For users who rely on Google products for their business – a use that Google has actively promoted – avoiding this information sharing may mean moving their entire business over to different platforms, reprinting any business cards or letterhead that contained Gmail addresses, re-training employees on web-based sharing and calendar services, and more. The problem is compounded for the many federal, state, and local government agencies that have transitioned to Google Apps for Government at the encouragement of your company, and that now will need to spend taxpayer dollars determining how this change affects the security of their information and whether they need to switch to different platforms”

Google refused to pay any attention to their concerns, though. Google has refused to listen to anybody but themselves and advertisers. Google’s business model depends on 90% of their revenues to come from advertising. Google wants to harvest more of our personal data so that it can sell it to advertisers.

This lack of respect for the concerns of others left Mr. Hanff shaking his head in disgust. He said,

“They’ve been asked to suspend the privacy policy changes several times, and Google keeps telling the regulators where to go. They’ve basically stuck two fingers up. Hopefully my case will open an avenue for other consumers to take similar action”

Pay up, Google! You neglected to respect your users; they will now neglect to do business with you. Good riddance!

To read my other post regarding the letter from the Attorneys General – click here


A commenter asked me to provide more details on this story, specifically the process Mr. Hanff took to file his lawsuit:

According to an interview between Mr. Hanff and The Inquirer, his choice to file his lawsuit at a small claims court was very deliberate. He said that small claims courts are much easier to get through, require minimal money to file a complaint, and you don’t need a lawyer to represent you. He encourages other Android owners to file a lawsuit with a small claims court for those reasons because he knows that many people don’t have the money and time to go through an extensive lawsuit – whereas, at a small claims court, there is little to lose and much to gain. Mr. Hanff said,

“The cost of filing in Small Claims Court is very low and the chance of having costs awarded against you should you lose are very slim, so from a risk mitigation perspective it is the safest route for consumers to take. The last thing I wanted to do was put people at risk of huge costs so I would advise the public to use the small claims route if they want to take action against Google on this issue.

I expect Google will offer a defense. I certainly don’t have any plans to accept an out of court settlement from Google unless that settlement can be made public and includes an admission from Google that the changes are prejudicial to privacy. So yes, I am expecting a fight but it is a fight I am more than prepared to undertake.”  

For more information:

The Telegraph, “Google sued for Android refund over privacy shakeup” – click here

The Telegraph, “Google Android users ‘must accept new privacy policy'” – click here

Tagged , , , , , , , ,

European Regulators Say Google’s New Privacy Policy Is Confusing ‘Even For Trained Professionals’

 The fight between Google and European authorities is getting even more intense!

Earlier this month, in my post titled “Europeans increasingly rejecting Google due to lack of privacy“, I informed you of a group that sent a letter to Google asking the company to delay their new privacy policy. The Article 29 Working Party is made up of data protection authorities from the member states of the European Union.

You can read my earlier post – click here

After the group found out that Google had plans to change its privacy policies, they politely asked Google to “pause” their plans to carry out the change because they needed a sufficient amount of time to fully investigate Google. Europeans take their online privacy very seriously. They wanted enough time to complete their analysis to make sure their citizens were protected from any violations or exploitation of their personal data.

However, despite the efforts of the European data protection authorities, Google sent back a letter telling them that the company would not stop their plans to implement their new privacy policy. Google claimed that they already gave the European regulators enough time and that they met with them before the change to its privacy policies was publicly announced. Google basically told the group “No and get lost!”

Google was well aware that the Working Party didn’t really have authority itself to enforce its recommendation.

Oh no you didn’t!

Hold on, not so fast!

Well, fast forward almost 4 weeks later and the European privacy regulators are back with a vengeance! The Article 29 Working Party decided to give its French data protection member the lead task to investigate Google. The scathing preliminary result of that investigation was released yesterday to the media. The French privacy agency is called the National Commission for Computing and Civil Liberties (CNIL) – and they did not mince words. In a letter addressed to Google (dated February 27th, 2012), the French agency is brutally honest with their assessment:

“The CNIL and the EU data protection authorities regret that Google did not accept to delay the application of this new policy which raises legitimate concerns about the protection of the personal data of European citizens.”

CNIL found that Google’s new privacy policy is actually not more transparent and comprehensive. They suggest that Google is actually being deceptive with their new privacy policy because it does not give users the whole truth. It isn’t enough to tell users the bare minimum about what the new privacy policy will mean to them, you have to tell users exactly how their personal data is going to be used. The French agency is concerned about what Google is hiding from its users.

I previously wrote about how Google has a problem telling its users the whole truth. For more on that – click here

“By merging the privacy policies of its services, Google makes it impossible to understand which purposes, personal data, recipients or access rights are relevant to the use of a specific service. As such, Google’s new policy fails to meet the requirements of the European Data Protection Directive”

They said that said Google’s new privacy policy actually raises more fears and concerns about the company’s actual practices. They question the lawfulness of Google’s intended changes to its privacy policy.

“The CNIL and the EU data protection authorities are deeply concerned about the combination of data across services and have strong doubts about the lawfulness and fairness of such processing. They intend to address these questions in detail with Google’s representatives”

Furthermore, the group made sure to address Google’s lie about meeting with European regulators before they unveiled plans to change their privacy policy:

“Contrary to public statements by Google representatives suggesting that data protection authorities across the EU had been ‘extensively pre-briefed’, not all authorities were  informed, and those that were informed only heard about the changes a few days before the announcement. They saw the contents of the new privacy policy at best a few hours before its public release, without any opportunity to provide any constructive feedback”

Oh SNAP! Ha-ha…Google must be really red-faced right about now.

And, for your information, the French authority has the power to fine companies up to 300,000 euros (or about $400,000) for each breach of privacy. It can also ask a court to stop the company from violating privacy laws. Other European countries can enforce their laws in similar ways too.

The French agency concluded that Google’s privacy policy is too vague and difficult to understand, “even for trained privacy professionals“.  They said they will send a full questionnaire to Google before mid-March and they reiterated their recommendation to Google to stop their plans in introducing their new privacy policy.

Hey Google, don’t try to pull a fast one on European privacy protection groups – they can knock you out, ha!

To read the full letter CNIL sent to Google, click here (PDF)

CNIL’s website – click here

For more information:

New York Times, “France Says Google Privacy Plan Likely Violates European Law” – click here

The Telegraph, “Google privacy overhaul ‘unlawful’, say regulators” – click here

BBC,Google ‘fails to meet EU rules’ on new privacy policy” – click here

Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Disappointing: Only 12% Of Google Users Are Aware Of Google’s New Privacy Policy!


…actually it’s not so surprising – it’s actually depressingly to be expected.

Anyway, guess what, according to a new poll released the other day, only 12% of the British public has bothered to read through Google’s new privacy policy.

The survey and research was conducted by Big Brother Watch and YouGov. They found that despite the fact that 92% of those included in the survey use at least one of Google’s many services – almost half….yes HALF of them didn’t even know that Google is changing its privacy policy. The precise number is actually 47% of those surveyed, which is absolutely disappointing.

Google announced earlier this year that it will combine all your personal data from all of Google’s services (Gmail, YouTube, search engine, Picasa, etc.) into one detailed profile of you. This combination of data is an effort by Google to make it easier to figure you out better and destroy anonymity. A Google spokesperson said that the company wants to eliminate “the faceless web“. Google makes over 90% of its revenues from advertising. They plan on making it more efficient to sellyour information to advertisers, which is big business for the company. Google earns about $40 BILLION a year in cold hard cash by monetizing your personal data. Sweeeeeeeet! Ka -CHING!

But it’s not so sweet for the vast majority of us who are the victims of this invasion of privacy. Ever since Google announced that they were going to combine our personal data, there has been an unprecedented amount of criticism hurled at the company. It probably caught Google off-guard because this massive company is used to getting a disproportionate amount of good press, while its dirty secrets are often swept under the carpet. Their unofficial company motto was “Don’t Be Evil” – but, as the late Steve Jobs once said, that’s “bulls**t!”

In my other posts on this site, I wrote about how Google received greater scrutiny from members of the US Congress and Senate, dozens of US Attorneys General, several consumer advocacy groups, several other companies, European regulators, and so many more. All are deeply concerned about Google’s increasing desire to harvest more of our personal data and Google’s lack in fairness.

Google has attempted to swat away privacy complaints by launching an awareness campaign to alert the public of its impending alteration to its privacy policy and terms of service – but evidently it failed. This despite the company trying to give itself credit for going through “exceptional lengths” to notify the public. Even the Chairman of the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) said last Sunday that “nobody reads online privacy notices”. He’s right, nobody does!

Nick Pickles, director of Big Brother Watch, said:

“The policy was only announced six weeks ago and, as Google knows from its advertising business, six weeks isn’t a long campaign – it’s very short. Neither consumers nor the regulators have had long to get their heads around the changes. It’s bad the way it’s been decided that it’s coming in and Google hasn’t reached everyone.

“The impact of Google’s new policy cannot be understated, but the public are in the dark about what the changes actually mean. If people don’t understand what is happening to their personal information, how can they make an informed choice about using a service? Google is putting advertiser’s interests before user privacy and should not be rushing ahead before the public understand what the changes will mean.”

Google’s new privacy policy will go into effect this Thursday, March 1st, 2012. Many people are still in the dark about what Google plans on doing with their information. The average person needs to take greater care of their privacy and educate themselves about the implications of using Google’s services. You don’t want to unwittingly sell your soul to the devil. Get proactive about your security, actively advocate for comprehensive Internet privacy laws to protect you, and spread the message to family and friends.

Remember, you are not Google’s customer – you are Google’s product!

For more information:

PCPro, “Only one in ten Google users have read privacy changes” – click here

The Telegraph, “Google users ignore major privacy shakeup” – click here

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,