Last week’s admission by search engine giant, Google, that it captured entire emails and passwords during its StreetView exercise worldwide, has led to the company issuing a statement on its global blogpost that it will build stronger controls to safeguard privacy. This follows an earlier statement that 244,000 users in Germany had opted out of its StreetView service.
According to Reuters, Google’s global privacy counsel, Peter Fleischer, said developers were seeking to construct a ‘privacy design document’ to bar any abuses of user information. He also said he was puzzled that users did not make better use of privacy controls available on the site.
On its Official Blog, Google’s Senior VP for Engineering and Research, Alan Eustace, said the company had spent the past several months looking at “how to strengthen our internal privacy and security practices, as well as talking to external regulators globally about possible improvements to our policies.”
Among its changes it has appointed Alma Whitten as a director of privacy across both engineering and product management, and will increase the number of people working with her.
It has also strenthened its training program on privacy and data protection, and all its employees will also be required to undertake a new information security awareness program, which will include clear guidance on both security and privacy, from December.
Every engineering project leader will also be required to maintain a privacy design document for each new initiative they are working on, which will record how user data is handled, The document will be reviewed regularly by managers, as well as by an independent internal audit team.
Google’s new measures follow a ruling by Canada’s privacy commissioner who charged Google with violating the rights of thousands of Canadians, as well as several other Governments who have demanded that the information gathered be deleted.
Although the case was originally dismissed by the UK’s Information Commissioner, the Privacy Watchdog there also stated last week that it would re-examine the data captured by Google’s StreetView cars.
In July, Australian Privacy Commissioner, Karen Curtis, also found that Google had breached the country’s Privacy Act when it collected unsecured Wi-Fi data using its Street View vehicles, but was satisfied with an apology posted on the company’s Blog.
However, Eustace re-iterated that the data collected was a mistake and would be deleted in due course. “We want to delete this data as soon as possible, and I would like to apologize again for the fact that we collected it in the first place. We are mortified by what happened, but confident that these changes to our processes and structure will significantly improve our internal privacy and security practices for the benefit of all our users.”
Fleischer said he was surprised at why people don’t make more use of the privacy controls available on the Google site which allows them to change the settings. This includes a preference manager which gives the option of choosing which advertisements would pop up on thier screens.
While StreetView is said to contain only imagery that you would see while driving or walking down a street, users may report a problem with what they see by clicking a button on the bottom left of their screen, filling out a form with your concerns and submitting it.