Skip to main content

RENE TILLMANN/RENE TILLMANN/AP

Canada's privacy commissioner has levelled a broadside at Google Inc., issuing an open letter to the company's CEO - co-signed by privacy heads from nine other countries - urging more protection of users' data.

"[We]are increasingly concerned that, too often, the privacy rights of the world's citizens are being forgotten as Google rolls out new technological applications," the letter, penned by Canadian privacy commissioner Jennifer Stoddart, states.

Ms. Stoddart and her colleagues take particular exception to Google's recent launch of a service called Buzz, which aimed to challenge Twitter's micro-blogging service and which Google embedded into its Gmail application. Many critics protested that Buzz gave away far too much personal information by default, without giving users proper guidance about what was going on. Google quickly changed Buzz's default settings to better protect privacy, but not before suffering a wave of bad publicity.

Story continues below advertisement

"We were disturbed by your recent rollout of the Google Buzz social networking application, which betrayed a disappointing disregard for fundamental privacy norms and laws," Ms. Stoddart's letter states. "Moreover, this was not the first time you have failed to take adequate account of privacy considerations when launching new services."

Google CEO Eric Schmidt received the letter on Monday, and it was released publicly Tuesday. According to people familiar with the matter, Google was not consulted specifically about the letter ahead of time. However the company talks to privacy officials frequently about general matters.

In addition to Canada, privacy commissioners from France, Germany, Ireland, Israel, Italy, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Spain and the United Kingdom signed the letter.



Thinking of investing in Google?

  • Google: A rocket, a meteor - or a one-trick pony?
  • Google, the great disruptor, takes aim ... at everything
  • Google unveils its 'super phone'
  • Google's investment arm to grow partner ranks
  • Four reasons why Google is attractive


Google issued a brief response Tuesday that showed no signs the company would be overhauling its policies as a result of the privacy officials' rebuke.

"We try very hard to be upfront about the data we collect, and how we use it, as well as to build meaningful controls into our products," Google officials said in a statement.

"Of course we do not get everything 100 per cent right-that is why we acted so quickly on Buzz following the user feedback we received. We have discussed all these issues publicly many times before and have nothing to add to today's letter-instead we are focused on launching our new transparency tool which we are very excited about."

Although Ms. Stoddart said the letter reflects the commissioners' more broad concerns with privacy policies at many large Internet companies, the focus is squarely on Google, which dominates the search market in Canada and many other countries.

Story continues below advertisement

"We therefore call on you, like all organizations entrusted with people's personal information, to incorporate fundamental privacy principles directly into the design of new online services."

The commissioners will hold a press conference Tuesday afternoon in Washington D.C. to further explain their position.

Report an error
Tickers mentioned in this story
Unchecking box will stop auto data updates
Comments

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • All comments will be reviewed by one or more moderators before being posted to the site. This should only take a few moments.
  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed. Commenters who repeatedly violate community guidelines may be suspended, causing them to temporarily lose their ability to engage with comments.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.
Cannabis pro newsletter