Google gets good grade from Canada's privacy czar

Watchdog official says search engine 'well on the way to resolving serious shortcomings'

After essentially being put on Canadian privacy probation last fall, search giant Google has taken positive steps to better safeguard the personal data of Canadians, according to that nation's top privacy official.

From Reuters:

"Google appears to be well on the way to resolving serious shortcomings in the way in which it addresses privacy issues," Privacy Commissioner Jennifer Stoddart said on Monday.

Stoddart's office issued a finding last October which determined that Google violated the privacy rights of Canadians -- though inadvertently -- when it collected personal information via wi-fi-enabled cars driving on Canadian streets taking photographs for Google's Street View.

(Also see: Google gets another wrist slap in wi-spy case, this time from U.K.)

The inadvertent part means that this whole Street View privacy snafu started when a Google engineer slipped some code into software the company used to collect wi-fi information. The new code collected email message content from any wireless connections it detected. The engineer apparently dropped the ball on submitting the revised code to Google's product design guru, as required by policy, thus spawning a global privacy scandal.

The privacy commissioner issued several mild recommendations that Google comply with, including 1) re-examining employee privacy training, 2) creating a "governance model" that would "ensure that all necessary procedures to protect privacy have been duly followed prior to the launch of any product" and 3) clearly designating and identifying "individuals actively involved in the process and accountable for compliance with Google’s obligations under privacy laws."

Stoddart considered the matter unresolved until Feb. 1, when she expected a report from Google on its progress meeting her recommendations. Looks like Google at least met that low bar.

However, it's got another year of probation. Stoddart is requiring Google to hire an independent auditor of its privacy policies to produce a new report in a year.

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