Tag: Google

CJEU rules that Right To Be Forgotten is only applicable in Europe

27. September 2019

In a landmark case on Tuesday the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) ruled that Google will not have to apply the General Data Privacy Regulation’s (GDPR) “Right to be Forgotten” to its search engines outside of the European Union. The ruling is a victory for Google in a case against a fine imposed by the french Commission nationale de l’informatique et des libertés (CNIL) in 2015 in an effort to force the company and other search engines to take down links globally.

Seeing as the internet has grown into a worldwide media net with no borders, this case is viewed as a test of wether people can demand a blanket removal of information about themselves from searches without overbearing on the principles of free speech and public interest. Around the world, it has also been perceived as a trial to see if the European Union can extend its laws beyond its own borders.

“The balance between right to privacy and protection of personal data, on the one hand, and the freedom of information of internet users, on the other, is likely to vary significantly around the world,” the court stated in its decision.The Court also expressed in the judgement that the protection of personal data is not an absolute right.

While this leads to companies not being forced to delete sensitive information on their search engines outside of the EU upon request, they must take precautions to seriously discourage internet users from going onto non-EU versions of their pages. Furthermore, companies with search engines within the EU will have to closely weigh freedom of speech against the protection of privacy, keeping the currently common case to case basis for deletion requests.

In effect, since the Right to be Forgotten had been first determined by the CJEU in 2014, Google has since received over 3,3 million deletion requests. In 45% of the cases it has complied with the delisting of links from its search engine. As it stands, even while complying with deletion requests, the delisted links within the EU search engines can still be accessed by using VPN and gaining access to non-EU search engines, circumventing the geoblocking. This is an issue to which a solution has not yet been found.

Google strives to reconcile advertising and privacy

27. August 2019

While other browser developers are critical of tracking, Google wants to introduce new standards to continue enabling personalized advertising. With the implementation of the “Privacy Sandbox” and the introduction of a new identity management system, the developer of the Chrome browser wants to bring browsers to an uniform level in processing of user data and protect the privacy of users more effectively.

The suggestions are the first steps of the privacy initiative announced by Google in May. Google has published five ideas. For example, browsers are to manage a “Privacy Budget” that gives websites limited access to user data so that users can be sorted into an advertising target group without being personally identified. Google also plans to set up central identity service providers that offer limited access to user data via an application programming interface (API) and inform users about the information they have passed on.

Measures like Apple’s, which have introduced Intelligent Tracking Protection, are not in Google’s interest, as Google generates much of its revenue from personalized advertising. In a blog post, Google also said that blocking cookies promotes non-transparent techniques such as fingerprinting. Moreover, without the ability to display personalized advertising, the future of publishers would be jeopardized. Their costs are covered by advertising. Recent studies have shown, that the financing of publishers decreases by an average of 52% if advertising loses relevance due to the removal of cookies.

Based on these ideas, the discussion among developers about the future of web browsers and how to deal with users’ privacy should now begin. Google’s long-term goal is a standardization process to which all major browser developers should adhere. So far, Google has had only limited success with similar initiatives.

Settlement of $13 Million for Google in Street View Privacy Case

30. July 2019

In an attempt to settle a long-running litigation of a class-action case started in 2010, Google agrees to pay $13 million over claims that it violated U.S. wire-tapping laws. The issue came from vehicles used for its Street View mapping Project that captured and collected personal data from private wifi networks along the way.

Street View is a feature that lets users interact with panoramic and detailed images of locations all around the world. The legal action began when several people whose data was collected sued Google after it admitted the cars photographing neighborhoods for Street View had also gathered emails, passwords and other private information from wifi networks in more than 30 countries.

While the company was quick to call this collection of data a mistake,  investigators found out that the capture of personal data was built and embedded by Google engineers in the software of the vehicles to intentionally collect personal data from accessed networks.

The new agreement would make Google to be required to destroy any collected data via Street View, agree not to use Street View to collect personal data from wifi networks without consent, and to create webpages and instructions to explain to people how to secure their wireless content.

Google had been asked to refrain from using and collecting personal data from wifi networks in an earlier settlement in 2013, which raises questions as to why it was necessary to include it in the current settlement as well.

Category: Cyber security · General · USA
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Google data breach notification sent to IDPC

18. July 2019

Google may face further investigations under the General Data Protection Regulation(GDPR), after unauthorized audio recordings have been forwarded to subcontractors. The Irish Data Protection Commission (IDPC) has confirmed through a spokesperson that they have received a data breach notification concerning the issue last week.

The recordings were exposed by the Belgian broadcast VRT, said to affect 1000 clips of conversations in the region of Belgium and the Netherlands. Being logged by Google Assistant, the recordings were then sent to Google’s subcontractors for review. At least 153 of those recordings were not authorized by Google’s wake phrase “Ok/Hey, Google,” and were never meant to be recorded in the first place. They contained personal data reaching from family conversations over bedroom chatter to business calls with confidential information.

Google has addressed this violation of their data security policies in a blog post. It said that the audio recordings were sent to experts, who understand nuances and accents, in order to refine Home’s linguistic abilities, which is a critical part in the process of building speech technology. Google stresses that the storing of recorded data on its services is turned off by default, and only sends audio data to Google once its wake phrase is said. The recordings in question were most likely initiated by the users saying a phrase that sounded similar to “Ok/Hey, Google,” therefore confusing Google Assistant and turning it on.

According to Google’s statement, Security and Privacy teams are working on the issue and will fully review its safeguards to prevent this sort of misconduct from happening again. If, however, following investigations by the IDPC discover a GDPR violation on the matter, it could result in significant financial penalty for the tech giant.

Consumers should know how much their data is worth

27. June 2019

US Senators Mark R. Warner (Democrats) and Josh Hawley (Republicans) want to know from Facebook, Google and Co. exactly how much the data of their users, measured in dollars and cents, is worth to them.

Last Sunday, the two senators announced their intention for the first time in a US talk show: Every three months, each user is to receive an overview of which data has been collected and stored and how the respective provider rates it. In addition, the aggregated value of all user data is to be reported annually to the US Securities and Exchange Commission. In this report, the companies are to disclose how they store, process and protect data and how and with which partner companies they generate sales with the data. All companies with more than 100 million users per month will be affected.

The value of user data has risen enormously in recent years; so far, companies have protected their internal calculations as company secrets. In addition, there is no recognized method for quantifying the value of user data; only when a company is sold or valued by means of an initial public offering (IPO) does it become obvious. In the case of the WhatsApp takeover it was  $ 55 per user, in the case of Skype it was $ 200.

But one can doubt the significance of these figures. A further indication can be the advertising revenues, which are disclosed by companies per quarter. At the end of 2018, Facebook earned around $6 per user worldwide, while Amazon earned $752 per user. These figures are likely to rise in the future.  “For years, social media companies have told consumers that their products are free to the user. But that’s not true – you are paying with your data instead of your wallet,” said Senator Warner. “But the overall lack of transparency and disclosure in this market have made it impossible for users to know what they’re giving up, who else their data is being shared with, or what it’s worth to the platform. […]” Experts believe it is important for consumers to know the value of their data, because only when you know the value of a good you are able to value it.

On Monday, Warner and Rawley plan to introduce the  Designing Accounting Safeguards to Help Broaden Oversight And Regulations on Data (DASHBOARD) Act to the parliament for its first reading. It remains to be seen whether their plans will meet with the approval of the other senators.

Google Introduces Automatic Deletion for Web Tracking History

7. May 2019

Google has announced on its blog that it will introduce an auto delete feature for web tracking history.

So far, users have the option to manually delete data from Google products such as YouTube or Maps. After numerous requests, however, Google follows other technology giants and revised its privacy settings. “We work to keep your data private and secure, and we’ve heard your feedback that we need to provide simple ways for you to manage or delete it,” Google writes on it’s blog.

Users will be able to choose a period for which the data should remain stored, lasting a minimum of 3 months and a maximum of 18 months. At the end of the selected period, Google will automatically delete the data on a regular basis. This option will initially be introduced for Location History and Web & App Activity data and will be available over the next few weeks, according to Google.

Google’s announcement came the day after Microsoft unveiled a set of features designed to strengthen privacy controls for its Microsoft 365 users, aimed to simplify its privacy policies.

On the same day, during Facebook’s annual developer conference, F8, Mark Zuckerberg announced a privacy roadmap for the social network.

The EU Commission fined Google 1.49 billion euros regarding antitrust case

21. March 2019

On Wednesday Google was fined 1.49 billion euros by the European Commission in connection with hindering competitors in the online advertising business.

The accusation is that Google has illegally made use of its market dominance.The company inflicted a number of exclusivity clauses in contracts with third-party websites which prevented the company’s competitors from positioning their search adverts on these websites. This concerns a small area in Google’s “advertising machinery”. But still, as a result, other advertisers and website owners “had less choice and likely faced higher prices that would be passed on to consumers,” claimed the EU’s competition commissioner, Margrethe Vestager.

In the last two years, this represents the third time that Europe’s antitrust regulators, lead by Danish competition commissioner Margarethe Vestagers, fined the tech company. Google has appealed against the two previous fines. The first fine (2.42 billions euros) was for manipulating online shopping results and directing visitors to its comparison-shopping service at the expense of its contestants. The second one amounting to 4.34 billion euros concerned mobilephone producers that were forced to use Google’s Android operating system to install the company’s search and browser apps.

Category: EU · EU Commission · European Union · General
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Cookiebot publishes „Ad Tech Surveillance on the Public Sector Web“

20. March 2019

The website Cookiebot recently published a report of its “Ad Tech Surveillance on the Public Sector Web”. They used their scanning technology to analyse tracking across official government websites and public health service websites in all 28 European Union member states. More than 100 advertising technology companies track EU citizens who visit those public sector websites by gaining access through free third-party services such as video plug-ins and social sharing buttons.

Said ad trackers were found on 25 out of the 28 official government websites in the EU. Only the Dutch, German and the Spanish websites had no commercial trackers. Most of them were found on the French website (52 trackers) followed by the Latvian website (27 trackers).

Cookiebot also investigated the tracking on Public Health Service Sites and found out that 52% of landing pages with health information contained ad trackers. The worst ranked one was the Irish health service with 73% of landing pages containing trackers. The lowest ranked country – Germany – still hat one third of its landing pages held trackers.

Those trackers got in via free third-party website plugins. For example, Ireland’s public health service (Health Service Executive (HSE)) installed the sharing tool ShareThis, which is like a Trojan horse that releases more than 20 ad tech companies into every Website it’s installed on.

Most of the tracking tools are controlled by Google. It controls the top three domains found and therefore tracks the visits to 82% of the main government websites of the EU. A complete list of all the trackers can be find in the published report.

CNIL fines Google for violation of GDPR

25. January 2019

On 21st of January 2019, the French Data Protection Authority CNIL imposed a fine of € 50 Million on Google for lack of transparency, inadequate information and lack of valid consent regarding the ads personalization.

On 25th and 28th of May 2018, CNIL received complaints from the associations None of Your Business (“NOYB”) and La Quadrature du Net (“LQDN”). The associations accused Google of not having a valid legal basis to process the personal data of the users of its services.

CNIL carried out online inspections in September 2018, analysing a user’s browsing pattern and the documents he could access.

The committee first noted that the information provided by Google is not easily accessible to a user. Essential information, such as the data processing purposes, the data storage periods or the categories of personal data used for the ads personalization, are spread across multiple documents. The user receives relevant information only after carrying out several steps, sometimes up to six are required. According to this, the scheme selected by Google is not compatible with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). In addition, the committee noted that some information was unclear and not comprehensive. It does not allow the user to fully understand the extent of the processing done by Google. Moreover, the purposes of the processing are described too generally and vaguely, as are the categories of data processed for these purposes. Finally, the user is not informed about the storage periods of some data.

Google has stated that it always seeks the consent of users, in particular for the processing of data to personalise advertisements. However, CNIL declared that the consent was not valid. On the one hand, the consent was based on insufficient information. On the other hand, the consent obtained was neither specific nor unambiguous, as the user gives his or her consent for all the processing operations purposes at once, although the GDPR provides that the consent has to be given specifically for each purpose.

This is the first time CNIL has imposed a penalty under the GDPR. The authority justified the amount of the fine with the gravity of the violations against the essential principles of the GDPR: transparency, information and consent. Furthermore, the infringement was not a one-off, time-limited incident, but a continuous breach of the Regulation. In this regard, according to CNIL, the application of the new GDPR sanction limits is appropriate.

Update: Meanwhile, Google has appealed, due to this a court must decide on the fine in the near future.

Google changes Privacy Policy due to GDPR

19. December 2018

As it is widely known these days, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) came into force earlier this year to standardize data protection regulation in the EU. This has now lead to the fact that Google will update the company’s terms of service and privacy policy to be compliant with the GDPR.

The company started to notify the countries in the European Economic Area (EEA) and Switzerland in regard to some upcoming changes. They will come into effect on January 22, 2019.

The most important update, also legally, is the change of the data controller. The Google Ireland Limited will become the so called “data controller” who is responsible for the information of European and Swiss users . Therefore, Google Ireland Limited will be in charge to respond to request from users and to ensure compliance with the GDPR. At present, these services are provided by Google LLC, based in the U.S.

For website operators this means that they might also have to adapt their privacy policy accordingly. This is the case, for example, if Google Analytics is used.

Furthermore, there are no changes in regard to the current settings and services.

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