Canada’s Privacy Commish Pops Google Right in the Buzz

by Jordan Richardson on April 22, 2010

The Privacy Commissioner of Canada, Jennifer Stoddart, and a number of other international privacy authorities took it to Google in a joint letter sent Tuesday. The letter chastises the company for its Google Buzz and states concern with respect to the privacy rights of the world’s citizens.

“…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,” the letter reads before going into detail about the February 2010 rollout of Google Buzz.

“Users instantly recognized the threat to their privacy and the security of their personal information, and were understandably outraged,” it continues.

The missive goes on in estimable detail to highlight a host of problems, noting that Google Buzz is not an isolated case in terms of privacy and expressing concern about how such a problem-riddled product was released in the first place. “Launching a product in ‘beta’ form is not a substitute for ensuring that new services comply with fair information principles before they are introduced,” the letter notes sharply.

The joint letter also raises the issue of Google Street View, a controversial product that was “launched in some countries without due consideration of privacy and data protection laws and cultural norms.”

The dispatch was sent to Google chief executive Eric Schmidt and was signed by the heads of privacy agencies from France, Germany, Ireland, Israel, Italy, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Spain and the United Kingdom.

Detailing several privacy principles, the letter goes on to congratulate Google for its innovative role in the community but essentially states that there is great responsibility that comes with all that magnificent power.

Google’s response to the letter was quite uncomplicated: it had nothing to add. Instead, Google turned the focus on its new “transparency tool.”

The letter doesn’t pull any punches and essentially gives some weight to many of the complaints rendered towards Buzz and Google when the monstrosity first came out. Stoddart’s office received a “storm of protest and outrage,” so the Privacy Commissioner issued a statement in February to address the issue and stated that officials were determining if Google had violated any Canadian privacy laws.

Stoddart isn’t one to be messed with on this topic, as her office went after Facebook last year and called the California-based social networking company out after it had been in violation of Canadian privacy laws.

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