Vint Cerf on Google's privacy practices and how getting tagged in a multitude of online media is disconcerting

By , Network World |  Security, Google, privacy

In the United Kingdom, for example, the U.K. data-protection watchdog agency, the Information Commissioner's Office, said Google did break the law but didn't impose a fine, instead demanding Google submit to an audit of its privacy policies. The audit, completed this August, was generally approving but urged Google to ensure "that users are given more information about the privacy aspects of Google products."

The WiFi blow-up became a huge scandal in Germany, leading to Google agreeing to offer people an "op-out" to not to have where they live be included in Google Maps through a blurring process. Ilse Aigner, Germany's Consumer Protection Minister, last year urged all Germans to opt out, and told the German magazine Spiegel, "Google unfortunately seems to lack any kind of sensitivity when it comes to collecting personal data."

Hundreds of thousands of Germans did opt out. In April of this year, even though a German court declared what Google was doing was legal, Google decided to stop doing Street View imagery collection in its cars, though it will map German street names and the like.

In the whole WiFi blow-up, "the controversy was that we didn't tell people we were collecting that data. We stopped." Cerf says. "We wanted to figure out where hotspots were so we could locate them later. We could locate the device and provide location services on GPS if the user had that."

Cerf adds he believes Google is still holding onto that cache of WiFi-related information that led to the whole controversy in the first place because Google has to be prepared to respond to any "grievances" legally that arise from it and it's all "evidence" that can't be destroyed.

Google has been willing in several ways to modify practices to address privacy concerns. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), which has criticized Google in the past, thinks the company is showing signs of warming up to ideas about how to protect consumer privacy in an era where new technologies mean it will simply have to be thought about in an entirely new way.

Originally published on Network World |  Click here to read the original story.
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