While everyone puts Facebook into the privacy cross hairs because they are the easiest target right now, there is still plenty of privacy drama surrounding Google. In Europe and in Hong Kong Google is under pressure to turn over data to regulators. This data is the “Whoops, we didn’t mean that!” data that has been gathered by the Street View crew for Google.
Google on Thursday balked at requests from regulators in Germany and Hong Kong to surrender fragments of Internet data and e-mails it had improperly collected from unsecured home wireless networks, saying it needed time to resolve legal issues.
In Germany, Google said it was not able to comply with the Hamburg data protection supervisor’s request to inspect information the company collected from Internet users by roving cars used to compile its Street View photo map archive.
The company, in a statement, implied that German privacy laws, ironically, were preventing it from turning over the information, even to a government agency.
“As granting access to payload data creates legal challenges in Germany which we need to review, we are continuing to discuss the appropriate legal and logistical process for making the data available,” said Peter Barron, a Google spokesman in London. “We hope, given more time, to be able to resolve this difficult issue.”
You gotta love lawyers and the law in general. Google turns Germany’s own laws on it as the reason that Google cannot turn over the requested data. I never aspired to be a lawyer for just this very reason.
It appears that Google is not making any friends by playing games with how, when or even if this data will be turned over to officials in either location. Some think that Google may just decide to take the nominal fines and the negative publicity and just move on. Why would they do that? Because people have short memories and, in the end, unless they have been directly impacted by these issues they don’t really care like many think they do. Do you think that many people will just stop using Google because of this? Not likely.
The Hong Kong privacy commissioner must be getting the same impression.
“I am dismayed by Google’s apparent lack of sincerity in its handling of this matter,” Mr. Woo said in a statement. “I do not see that Google is taking the matter seriously enough. Unless some remedial measures are taken by Google promptly, I shall have to consider escalating the situation and resort to more assertive action.”
You get the feeling that this threat isn’t making Google shake in their boots.
All of this may be for naught anyway especially in Germany, since the laws there don’t really cover actions taken by a corporation. In fact, they would need to prove that the Street View drivers themselves willingly and knowingly broke wire-tapping laws.
In the end, this may just be a lot of public blustering and Google knows well enough that eventually every storm passes and things get back to ‘normal’ with time.