Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Message to Google: Respect our citizens privacy

In a story published in the Avalanche-Journal, Barbara Ortutay, AP technology writer reports that 10 nations have written a joint letter to Google CEO Eric Schmidt expressing their concern over the way Google Buzz and Google Streetview handle privacy.

It's good to see that the privacy of citizens is important to their governments. It's sad that the US wasn't represented, but we don't have a privacy commissioner, and anyone who's been paying even mediocre attention to the news for the last 5 years should know that US government isn't exactly worried about citizens privacy.

The letter pulled no punches, saying in part:
"However, we are increasingly concerned that, too often, the privacy rights of the world’s citizens are being forgotten as Google rolls out new technological applications.  We were disturbed by your recent rollout of the Google Buzz social networking application, which betrayed a disappointing disregard for fundamental privacy norms and laws.  Moreover, this was not the first time you have failed to take adequate account of privacy considerations when launching new services."

The other service being referred to was, of course, Google Streetview. Google streetview has been plagued with privacy issues such as pictures of the interior of houses, backyards behind privacy fences, and unobscured pictures of peoples faces without permission.

The commissioners expressed concern that Google was making it a standard business practice to roll out new services without adequate planning and privacy protections:
"It is unacceptable to roll out a product that unilaterally renders personal information public, with the intention of repairing problems later as they arise. Privacy cannot be sidelined in the rush to introduce new technologies to online audiences around the world."

I only wish we could convince the US government of the importance of the citizens right to privacy. If we all contact our congressman and tell them, maybe we can.

The text of the letter is here.