A letter sent today from leaders from 10 countries criticized Google's handling of privacy concerns when rolling out new technologies, such as Google Buzz and Google Street View, saying that the company launches new products "without due consideration of privacy and data protection laws and cultural norms."
The letter, first reported by CNET, is addressed to Google CEO Eric Schmidt and signed by "Privacy Commissioner of Canada, Jennifer Stoddart, and the heads of the data protection authorities in France, Germany, Israel, Italy, Ireland, Netherlands, New Zealand, Spain and the United Kingdom".
The letter starts out by acknowledging Google's role as a technological innovator, before continuing to say "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."
It then calls for Google to set an example to other companies in regards to user privacy, making the following requests:
- collecting and processing only the minimum amount of personal information necessary to achieve the identified purpose of the product or service;
- providing clear and unambiguous information about how personal information will be used to allow users to provide informed consent;
- creating privacy-protective default settings;
- ensuring that privacy control settings are prominent and easy to use;
- ensuring that all personal data is adequately protected, and
- giving people simple procedures for deleting their accounts and honouring their requests in a timely way.
While Google was sued in the U.S. following its roll-out of Google Buzz, the letter notably lacks any U.S. representation.
In all, the letter makes some reasonable requests of a company that likely knows more about us than our closest of friends, and we are looking forward to reading Google's response.