92% of Google users unaware of privacy policy. Are you?

No British citizen’s personal information should be uploaded to the Google cloud until data regulators are satisfied with Google's attitude to privacy

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Are you aware of Google's privacy policy?
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Emma Carr
On 4 April 2013 08:07

A little over a year ago I wrote about the changes to Google’s privacy policy and the potential legal repercussions that the new policy would have. We raised concerns at the time about how the ‘simplified’ privacy policy made it possible for Google to combine data from across a whole range of services, without consumers being able to understand what happens to their data or to choose to not share their data in this way.

Big Brother Watch (BBW) decided to carry out a poll to see what the repercussions of Google’s actions would be. We found that nine in 10 adults had not read the new privacy policy despite 92 percent of adults using Google services on a regular basis (at least once a week). 

Ultimately, this meant that users were unaware that their private information was about to become a lot more valuable to Google and as such had no opportunity to decide whether to opt-out.

One year on and Google has now been told it faces action from at least six European data protection authorities, including the British Information Commissioner’s Office.  

BBW’s research in February found that more than seven in 10 (71 percent) of the British public say that privacy and data regulators were right to investigate Google’s privacy policy and how it allows Google to collect and combine data on consumers. A clear majority (66 percent) of the British public say that national regulators should be doing more to force Google to comply with existing European Directives on privacy and the protection of personal data.

The maximum fine that can be levied by the ICO is £500,000 – a drop in the ocean for Google – so we think that the ICO should look for broader ways to enforce the law.

An increasing number of British public sector organisations, ranging from schools to government departments, are using Cloud based services, including those provided by Google. The public sector should seriously question whether they should be using Google’s Cloud service considering the clear statements that have been made by the European data protection regulators. By voting with its feet, the public sector could make a serious statement about the UK’s attitude towards individuals’ privacy. That would arguably be far more effective than slapping Google with notices and fines.

Consumers are growing increasingly concerned about how their data is being used and it is essential that those breaking the law are properly punished. Regulators must identify and make use of a sanction that is not simply a slap on the wrist and will make Google think twice before it ignores consumer rights again.

We believe that until data regulators are satisfied with Google’s attitude to privacy, no British citizen’s personal information should be uploaded to the Google cloud. 

Emma Carr is the Deputy Director of Big Brother Watch. Follow her on twitter @EmmaFrancesCarr

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