Public back privacy law action on Google

2226178289_a6d36a48dd_oNew research published today by Big Brother Watch/ComRes finds that the majority of the British public are concerned about their online privacy (68%) with nearly a quarter (22%) saying that they are very concerned.

People are more likely to say that consumers are being harmed by big companies gathering large amounts of their personal data for internal use (46%) than they are to say that this enhances consumer experiences (18%).

As European data protection regulators prepare to take action against Google one year on from its revised privacy policy coming into force, more than 7 in 10 (71%) 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%) 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 message from consumers is clear – regulators were right to investigate Google’s new privacy policy and now they need to do more to force the company to comply with the law.

Online privacy is an important issue for a significant number of people and not enough is being done to address these fears. Google’s business is dependent on collecting more data about us and our online identities, but consumers do not trust that either Google or regulators take their privacy and wider concerns seriously enough.

People increasingly feel their interests and privacy are being ignored by large companies and advertisers motivated by profit. If regulators don’t get a grip of the situation we risk people losing trust in the digital economy and feeling they are not in control of their personal information. The long term consequences of such a collapse in trust would be dire.

Launched on 1 March 2012, the new privacy policy replaced approximately 60 individual product policies with one policy, with users unable to opt-out. It allows the company to combine data from across its services including YouTube, Gmail, Google+ and many others.

However, data protection authorities were concerned and European regulators, working together as the Article29 group, launched an investigation. On 16th October 2012 the group said it’s “investigation confirmed our concerns about the combination of data across services. The new Privacy Policy allows Google to combine almost any data from any services for any purposes.”

Google was given four months to change its approach, with 12 “practical recommendations” published. However, on 18 February 2013, the French authority leading the investigation said “Google did not provide any precise and effective answers” and regulators will now meet on February 26 to discuss how to proceed. (Link)