Online advertising behemoth Google has in its possession millions of pieces of information, including email addresses, its Street View SnoopMobiles lifted without permission while they were grabbing pix of people, their homes, the streets where they walk, and more.
Now Gargle must at the very least answer serious questions concerning it’s ‘unintentional’ data scooping activities posed by Swiss, German, Belgian, Czech, Spanish, French, Italian, Australian and UK regulators, at last reckoning.
But, but, it was all a big mistake, said Gargle front man Eric Schmidt, throwing up his hands in horror at the idea of Google stealing — sorry, accidentally collecting – the data over a period of years.
There’s a lot of that going around. Ad companies making ‘mistakes’ over user data.
Mark Zuckerman, whose Fa$ebook is another illicit gatherer of information for re-sale to advertisers, recently admitted “we’ve made a bunch of mistakes”.
No kidding, say users, scores of whom will on May 31 cancel their Fa$ebook accounts.
Gargle admits its sneak view Street View cars have collected 600 gigabytes of “fragmentary data” from unsecured WiFi networks in 33 countries and Hong Kong, says the New York Times. But “It has declined to describe the data in more detail and says it was gathered inadvertently because of a programming error.”
For “declined”, read “refused”.
Google and Fa$ebook both employ highly paid teams of strategists, engineers, software developers and spin doctors keep their images clean and pure, and it’s stretching credulity too far to have us believe either of them can ‘accidentally’ make these kinds of mistakes, p2pnet has suggested.
Now “Google has balked at requests from regulators to surrender Internet data and fragments of e-mail messages it collected from unsecured home wireless networks, saying it needed time to resolve legal issues”, states the NYT.
Balked? Another interpretation of that might be ‘thumbed its nose at’.
What’s to discuss?
It’s “imminently subject to civil or criminal legal action” if it interferes with the hard drive before handing it over, said PI, stating if the Google doesn’t “temporarily secure the data” it’ll “seek a prosecution for unlawful interception under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act”.
But Gargle has implied German privacy laws are “preventing it from turning over the information, even to a government agency”, says the New York Times, quoting spokesman Peter Barron as stating:
“As granting access to payload data creates legal challenges in Germany, which we need to review, we are continuing to discuss the appropriate legal and logistical process for making the data available.”
What’s to discuss? The only entity which doesn’t want the information handed over to interested parties is Google.
“We hope, given more time, to be able to resolve this difficult issue”, says Barron in the story.
In the US, the Federal Trade Commission says it’ll look into Google’s actions.
Meanwhile, “If the company is fighting this so hard, it suggests there is more to this than meets the eye,” the story has Privacy International’s Simon Davies, saying, observing, “the real question is: What was Google collecting from unwitting individuals and why? So far, nobody really knows.”
Actually, the real question is:
How and why are sovereign nations allowing a US advertising corporation to stonewall in this way?
Stay tuned, but don’t hold your breath.
illicit gatherer – More privacy promises from Facebook, May 24, 2010
New York Times – Google Balks at Turning Over Data to Regulators, May 27, 2010
warned Google – Don’t destroy WiFi data, PI warns Google, May 18, 2010
Net access blocked by government restrictions? Use Psiphon from the Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto. Go here for details.