As usual, Google is taking flak from both sides lately. They reported yesterday that of the 100 countries they offer products and services in, 25 countries block or filter one or more services. Search, Blogger, YouTube and even Google Docs are blocked in some countries, sometimes based on political or social filtering.
Meanwhile, ten more countries are complaining about Google allowing access to information in a different way—not protecting users’ privacy sufficiently with Buzz. Of course, this is nothing new, since Buzz has prompted privacy concerns since the day it rolled out.
We’ve already seen what Google is capable of in working against censorship, although they’ll continue to comply with democratic governments’ demands (such as removing pro-Nazi content from google.de and google.fr).
But the privacy concerns of the ten countries might be a bit more difficult to address. Canada, France, Germany, Ireland, Israel, Italy, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Spain and the United Kingdom are hard to dismiss as radical. Reports the AP:
[T]he letter sent Monday to Google CEO Eric Schmidt, privacy and data-protection officials from the 10 countries said they are still “extremely concerned about how a product with such significant privacy issues [Buzz] was launched in the first place.”
Google Street View, a mapping service that includes street-level photos taken by cameras mounted on cars that sweep through neighborhoods, is another area of concern. The officials complained that Google launched it in various countries without “due consideration of privacy and data protection laws and cultural norms.”
“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,” officials said in their letter, posted on the Web site of Canada’s privacy commissioner.
Google said it has “discussed all these issues publicly many times before and have nothing to add to today’s letter.”
The countries’ officials are also worried about others sites with similar practices. Frankly, so are we. As I said in February:
Dear Popular Websites: Stop. Test new features with real users. Ask for feedback. Don’t force crap on us—let us opt in, and if we like it, we’ll encourage others to opt in, too. And think about the implications before you get the negative ink and/or lawsuits, for once.
Google Buzz is still reaping the “benefits” of rushing its initially-impossible-to-opt-out-of products. Will they have to make more changes to appease other governments?