Et tu, Google?

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Late yesterday, Canada’s privacy commissioner, along with data protection authorities from France, Germany, Israel, Italy, Ireland, Netherlands, New Zealand, Spain and the United Kingdom sent a letter to Google CEO Eric Schmidt to express their concerns about privacy issues related to Google Buzz.

Are we unfairly picking on Google? Because the privacy practices we mention in our letter are not Google’s alone – they are representative of an industry-wide habit of launching first, debugging later. But Google is a world leader, and a company that has shown it is not afraid of jumping into the data protection debate. We hope that our letter sends a message to others in the online world as well – your users care about their privacy.

The full letter and news release are available on our site, but here are some excerpts:

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. 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. Moreover, this was not the first time you have failed to take adequate account of privacy considerations when launching new services….

It is unacceptable to roll out a product that unilaterally renders personal information public, with the intention of repairing problems later as they arise. Privacy cannot be sidelined in the rush to introduce new technologies to online audiences around the world.

We’ve asked Google for a response, but we also want to know what you think. Let us know in the comments section, or join us via webcast and Twitter (hashtag #priv2010) at our first public consultation next Thursday, April 29.

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