Information Commissioner's Office Stories January 30, 2015

Google settles dispute with UK, agrees to change privacy policy by June

Google has had its fair share of privacy-related run-ins with the authorities in Europe, but will now be able to put one of those disputes behind it. TechCrunch reports that the company has reached an agreement with the UK’s privacy watchdog to change its privacy policy in order to comply with UK law.

The UK’s Information Commissioner didn’t object to the personal data collected by Google, but found that it was not properly explaining to consumers what data was collected and how it would be used. Google has agreed to include illustrative examples to help consumers to understand its policies.

In particular the Commissioner recommended that the data controller should do more to bring users’ attention to processing which would not be within their reasonable expectations. When considering this point it was noted that some users will not have sufficient technical knowledge to fully appreciate the ways in which the data controller can obtain their data from their use of the data controller’s products and services, how the data is combined, and how behavioural advertising on the internet operates. It was suggested that further examples of the processing would assist in this regard.

Google also came under fire in the UK last year for continuing to drop cookies in Safari even when users had switched off this option.

Its far bigger fight against Europe’s ‘right to be forgotten‘ legislation is likely to continue to run for some considerable time.

Information Commissioner's Office Stories June 13, 2012

Google released sworn denials (PDF) on Tuesday from nine Googlers who claimed they had no knowledge about data mining in the Street View mapping project.

Google Street View is a service highlighted in Google Maps and Google Earth that offers panoramic views of streets. It launched in 2007 in the United States and expanded to many cities and rural areas worldwide. The project ambitiously maps the world’s streets with photographs, but the plotting venture allegedly cropped unencrypted Internet data from wireless networks for roughly three years until 2010.

Google’s Street View automobiles gathered sensitive information, including private dispatches, as it roamed many boulevards, avenues, roads, highways, lanes, and thoroughfares across the globe. Tuesday’s unveiled declarations by nine Google engineers featured redacted names and titles, while it explicitly disclosed that the Mountain View, Calif.-based Company employees did not know about the misconduct. The Googlers were in the dark, because either content collection was not a part of their job, or they did not assess given project documentation.

It eventually became publicly clear that Street View gathered unencrypted information, like emails and Internet searches beamed between personal computers from within homes, thanks to German regulators who began to probe the mapping service in their country. When the findings came to light, Google fingered a nameless engineer as being solely responsible for the action, which resulted in a Federal Communications Commission inquiry.

The search engine did not break any laws, the regulatory body found, but it did obstruct the investigation. The F.C.C. fined the company $25,000, despite the sworn documents having been originally provided as part of the inquiry into Street View.

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