Monday, September 17, 2007

Google in the News

There's a pair of articles about Google and privacy in Information Week. First, Google itself put out a call for a global privacy standard (article here). The initiative is laudable. Google's privacy counsel is quoted in the article as stating that

Yet despite the international scope of even the most ordinary Internet activity, the majority of the world's countries offer virtually no privacy standards to their citizens and businesses. And even if every country in the world did have its own privacy standards, this alone would not be sufficient to protect user privacy, given the Web's global nature. Data may move across six or seven countries, even for very routine Internet transactions. It is not hard to see why privacy standards need to be harmonized and updated to reflect this reality.

However, is Google really the organization to push privacy standards? According to the second article (link here) Canada's privacy commissioner has expressed concerns that Google's streetview product, which includes images of identifiable individuals captured in public places may violate Canadian privacy law. While streetview hasn't been introduced in Canada yet, making Google's legal violation largely hypothetical, the fact that the question is arising at all indicates that Google may still be a bit tone deaf on the issue of privacy, and might not be the right organization to spearhead a call for global standards.

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