Google launches new privacy policy | News | DW | 01.03.2012
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Google launches new privacy policy

Internet giant Google has implemented new rules on collating data on its users, amid hefty criticism from the EU and US. Google calls it a "privacy policy," terminology one activist dubbed "Orwellian doublespeak."

Google rolled out its new "privacy policy" on Thursday, with new company policy dictating that information about Google users will be shared across the corporation's various online services.

EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding told BBC Radio 4 that data control authorities in France had analyzed the deal at the behest of the EU.

"They have come to the conclusion that they are deeply concerned, and that the new rules are not in accordance with European law, and that the transparency rules have not been applied," Reding said, adding that under EU law, protection of personal data "is not an 'if,' it is a 'must.' "

The French data protection authority known by its acronym CNIL had published a report on the matter on its English-language website on Wednesday, a day ahead of the launch. Google responded to this announcement in a letter also published online, saying that it would not postpone the launch and complaining that it had frequently "reached out" to CNIL during the discussions.

Under the new deal, personal data gathered from email service Gmail, video sharing website Youtube, Google's Internet Search function and others can be collated together, whereas they were kept separate in the past. The company, which has come under fire for the new setup, insists that it's purely an internal change.

"The new policy doesn't change any existing privacy settings or how any personal information is shared outside of Google," privacy chief Alma Whitman said on the Google Blog on Thursday.

A not-so-private privacy policy

Users can browse services like Youtube and Search without logging on to their Google account, thus circumnavigating the system, but for other services like Gmail or Android mobile phone systems, the only opt-out is to stop using them altogether.

"Calling this a 'privacy policy' is Orwellian doublespeak," John Simpson from the US advocacy group Consumer Watchdog said. "Google isn't telling you about protecting your privacy. Google is telling you how they will gather information about you on all its services, combine it in new ways and use the fat new digital dossiers to sell more ads. They're telling you how they plan to spy on you. It's a spy policy."

Google says that its new policy is designed to streamline existing rules and regulations to make matters simpler for its users, complaining that the launch had been accompanied by "a fair amount of chatter and confusion."

The company also alluded to fellow technology giants Apple and Facebook, both of whom already employ similar systems whereby user data can be collated across services.

Justice Commissioner Reding also acknowledged that these issues affected many companies, not just Google.

"We know data is the bloodstream of these new industries … but at the same time there are basic European rules … which have to be applied, and unfortunately we always see that those rules are just not observed, and illegality is taking over," Reding told the BBC.

msh/bk (AFP, Reuters)