How Google can help in the search for the right to privacy
And disagree they do. The French National Commission for Computing and Civil Liberties, acting on behalf of a group of European Union officials, sent Google a letter Monday saying the new rules may violate European law. Thirty-six U.S. attorneys general also sent a letter to Google Chief Executive Officer Larry Page. Meanwhile, Google has found little support from privacy groups like the U.S.-based Electronic Privacy Information Center, which sued in federal court to get the Federal Trade Commission to stop the change.
You’d think Google had announced it would start collecting terabytes of data about you, your neighbor and your dog, if he’s ever online. You’d be wrong: Google already does that. Google is not collecting any new information; rather, it is sharing (with itself) more of the information it already has. As of Thursday, Google says, it is combining “information you’ve provided from one service with information from other services. In short, we’ll treat you as a single user across all our products.” The change reduces more than 60 of the company’s privacy policies, spread over as many products, to just one. At about 2,500 words, it is admirably clear and concise.
So what’s not to like? Well, that French letter complains that officials weren’t given enough time to study Google’s new policy and that “trained privacy professionals” — undoubtedly in Brussels — find it confusing. They want more information. That’s easy enough for Google to provide, and it plans to do so.
But there are other concepts, such as the “right to be forgotten,” which are embedded in the European idea of privacy but may prove problematic to honor online. Google has to comply with local laws in all jurisdictions in which it operates. This, however, is an issue that transcends borders.
This editorial appears on Bloomberg View.