Canada’s privacy commissioner joined nine other government privacy authorities on Tuesday to condemn Google Inc. for its irresponsible privacy values.
The privacy watchdogs expressed their concerns in both an open letter to Google CEO Eric Schmidt and at a press conference in Washington, D.C. In addition to Canadian Privacy Commissioner Jennifer Stoddart’s participation, the open letter was also co-signed by data protection authorities from France, Germany, Israel, Italy, Ireland, Netherlands, New Zealand, Spain and the United Kingdom
The 10 country group charged Google with failing to take privacy considerations into account when launching new applications and services. At the top of the list was Google’s Buzz service, a tool launched in February that added micro-blogging and social networking functionality to the company’s Gmail client.
Upon its launch, Google faced widespread criticism among media pundits and privacy activists who protested that the company transformed a private e-mail service into a public social networking site.
Some users also complained that Google publicly disclosed their personal information without properly notifying them. In wake of the outrage, Google modified the Buzz service to better protect customer privacy.
Now several months later, the action appears not to be strong enough for some global privacy agencies. In Tuesday’s press conference, the group said the Google Buzz situation was the “last straw” and added that many of the privacy authorities would not hesitate to use its powers if this latest warning is ignored.
Stoddart said that privacy has become a global issue and that Google cannot continue to ignore fundamental privacy norms and laws when rolling out future services. “This can’t go on the way it (has been),” she said in a press conference. “New products are being launched in untested form and (Google) is doing tests on the live marketplace with real people.”