Posted May 10, 2010 1:44 pm by with 3 comments

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Last month, privacy and data protection officials from Canada, France, Germany, Ireland, Israel, Italy, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Spain and the United Kingdom wrote an open letter to Google voicing their concerns about Google Buzz. Of course, this is nothing new, since Buzz has prompted privacy concerns since the day it rolled out.

Now Google is responding: and they’ve decided that what those ten countries really wanted was a briefing on Google’s privacy policy and guiding principles. Yeah, that’s what they were looking for.

Let’s rehash this conversation here. First, the ten countries say:

In essence, you took Google Mail (Gmail), a private, one-to-one web-based e-mail service, and converted it into a social networking service, raising concern among users that their personal information was being disclosed. Google automatically assigned users a network of “followers” from among people with whom they corresponded most often on Gmail, without adequately informing Gmail users about how this new service would work or providing sufficient information to permit informed consent decisions. This violated the fundamental principle that individuals should be able to control the use of their personal information.

And then Google says:

At Google, we have 5 privacy principles that describe how we approach privacy and user information across all of our products:
1. Use information to provide our users with valuable products and services.
2. Develop products that reflect strong privacy standards and practices.
3. Make the collection of personal information transparent.
4. Give users meaningful choices to protect their privacy.
5. Be a responsible steward of the information we hold.

Hm… So are they now claiming that Buzz “reflected strong privacy standards,” “transparent information collection,” “meaningful choices to protect [users’] privacy” and “responsible” stewardship? Because that was kind of exactly what users and governments alike were complaining about.

Read Write Web hits the nail on the head: Google’s response “reads more like a public relations form-letter on the company’s privacy practices.” Or, essentially: Thank you for your interest in our company! We wish we had the time to respond to every user. Or even the governments that represent nearly 400 million people. Unfortunately, we don’t care.

What do you think? Is Google being flip? Or is there no better way to respond?

  • I believe there are different levels of what is considered “privacy” throughout the world.I notice in general some citizens from some countries tent to post all valid personal information (unaware a filter of thick skin needs to be judiciously applied) On the flip side Google/Facebook have a certain self imposed power without realizing their time on earth (google 10 years) is a mote in the changing social/political swirl that at home and Internationally is abound.
    .-= Glam Rock´s last blog ..Strange Devine… seeking the stargazer venue wrote a new blog post: The Strange case of Jim Morrison "when your strange" =-.

  • I agree with Glam Rock – everyone responds differently, but – no one should decide about my personal life or what I want without being asked. I have Gmail. One day I put it on and there was that little buzzaroo. Without much warning – it was there, with someone attached to it like a twitter page.

    I removed it and then read about it. I think we have gone overboard with disclosure and exposure. People are on their computers too long and looking for digital relationships that have no physical meaning.

    I think it is time to go out with some friends to a cafe and have a glass of wine and a good pasta meal. Communicate in person. What a treat.

  • Kain

    I always knew that Google treated its users like something they stepped on but you would expect them to take a letter from 10 countries seriously and not give a garbage reply like that.

    You would have to be insane to trust a company like that with your dog’s private info let alone your own.

    I can understand people using adwords and adsense because they are the only game in town but using any of their other dodgy offerings is total madness.