Google facing legal action in Europe if privacy policy isn’t changed

Google LogoThere has been a great deal of news lately involving the rights to citizen privacy. It is a hot button issue that is becoming all the more intense as details of government surveillance programs in the US, UK and France continue to be unveiled. But Google is under fire for more than PRISM, with European watchdogs demanding they change their privacy policy, or risk legal action.

Among the complaining watchdogs is the United Kingdom’s  Information Commissioner’s Office. It is the latest to join other organizations from Germany and Italy that have warned the US based company of their plans to seek legal aid against their privacy terms.

The policy in question was changed in 2012 to allow “unified data collection”. Usernames and passwords, web pages, WIFI information, location details and more can be collected under this policy, and stored as the company sees fit. Anything that is done through a Google service is subject to these conditions. With the Google brand connecting all of its services into singular accounts, which can then be attached directly to Chrome, the scope of what is collected has been widened even further.

In addition to these privacy issues are those of Google Street View – which have long since been a concern of privacy advocates – and Google Glass. The new wearable computer can take photos and data without the user’s permission, and is subject to the same privacy policies as their web data collection.

Better clarification is being called for, as it isn’t entirely obvious what is being done with this data, or even how much is being stored. The company’s refusal to address this has led to five different sanctions from European countries, which say it flagrantly violates their laws and the rights of their citizens.

Google has denied this, and released a statement after watchdogs issued threats of greater action.

“Our privacy policy respects European law and allows us to create simpler, more effective services. We have engaged fully with the authorities involved throughout this process, and we’ll continue to do so going forward,” the statement read.

I don’t think anyone is surprised by the accusation that Google is breaking the law in how they handle user information and privacy. But we live in a digital based world where the laws haven’t quite caught up to the technology, nor have the punishments for deterring violations. Google is only one of many companies (I’m looking at you, Facebook!) that raise serious questions.

Source: The Guardian

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