Ten countries wrote a letter to Google CEO Eric Schmidt complaining about Google's approach to releasing Web applications such as Google Buzz, which touched off a privacy furor when the company launched it in February. The countries ask that Google "incorporate fundamental privacy principles directly into the design of new online services" going forward. The letter was sent before Google is expected to launch a new privacy initiative later today.
Privacy watchdogs from 10 countries wrote a letter to Google CEO Eric Schmidt complaining
about Google's approach to releasing Web applications such as Google Buzz,
which touched off a privacy furor when the company launched it in February.
Data protection leaders in Canada, France, Germany,
Israel, Italy, Ireland, Netherlands, New Zealand, Spain and the United Kingdom said
in the April 19 letter
that Google Buzz "betrayed a disappointing disregard for
fundamental privacy norms and laws."
They allege Google launched Buzz in beta form, which they said is no
way to ensure that new services comply with privacy principles.
Yet Buzz was not introduced as a beta
project. Google Feb. 9
Google Buzz, taking users' Gmail and chat contacts and using them as
the social graph for the service, which lets users post comments, links, photos
and videos to ignite conversations.
But in launching the service, Google made the contacts
people followed public on Buzz users' profile pages, which are public on
Google. Users were outraged by how easily Google let everyone see who Buzz
users were connected to. Google initially provided too little information about
this and did not make information it did provide readily visible in Buzz.
, said it was trying to make the services as unobtrusive as possible,
several privacy controls
, including making followers auto-suggest
instead of auto-follow. Yet the damage had been
The Electronic Information Privacy Center
a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission, U.S. Congress
representatives wrote to the FTC, and Google is facing
two class-action lawsuits over Buzz.
Now the privacy heads of state are piling on:
"It is unacceptable to roll out a product that
unilaterally renders personal information public, with the intention of
repairing problems later as they arise," the parties wrote in the letter
. "Privacy cannot be sidelined in the rush to introduce new
technologies to online audiences around the world."
The letter was sent before Google is expected to launch a
new privacy initiative later today. A Google spokesperson alluded to this
measure in an e-mail to eWEEK asking for a response the letter.
try very hard to be upfront about the data we collect, and how we use
well as to build meaningful controls into our products. Of course we do
not get everything 100 percent right--that is why we acted so
quickly on Buzz
following the user feedback we received. We have discussed all these
publicly many times before and have nothing to add to today's letter --
we are focused on launching our new transparency tool which we are very
The privacy heads note that Google Buzz was not the first
time Google trampled on user privacy. They allege Google Street View was
in some countries without proper consideration of privacy and data
The countries ask that Google "incorporate
fundamental privacy principles directly into the design of new online services"