Google Play privacy violation riles privacy groups

News 25 Feb, 2013

Campaigners demand action from the ICO as survey shows consumer trust in Google is waning.

Google has come under fire from privacy campaigners who claim the company’s privacy policies have left consumers’ data at risk.

Alexander Hanff, a privacy advocate who sued Google in 2012 over its privacy policy changes, has written an open letter to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO). The document references allegations the company passed on customer information from the Google Play app store to third party developers, known as the Google Play Privacy Violation.

“If the reports are in fact as they appear to be, this is an extremely serious violation of consumers’ privacy and just the latest in a long line of privacy breaches by Google,” said Hanff.

“It is easy to speculate on the kind of damage that might be caused to consumers as a result of the Google Play Privacy Violation. For example, if that personal data was subsequently sold on it could mean people losing their jobs or being turned down for loans,” he added.

This is an extremely serious violation of consumers’ privacy and just the latest in a long line of privacy breaches by Google.

Hanff also claimed sensitive personal data allegedly passed on by Google could be used for criminal activities, such as blackmail or fraud, and warned there could be “serious issues in relation to the online security of children”.

Hanff has asked the ICO to launch an investigation into the matter, and has also submitted a Freedom of Information (FOI) request for information relating to the Google Play Violation.

Hanff’s open letter comes as privacy organisation Big Brother Watch released the results of a study it carried out with ComRes, which showed 68 per cent of the British public are either concerned or very concerned about their online privacy.

The results revealed almost three quarters of those questioned (71 per cent) believe privacy and data regulators were right to investigate Google’s privacy policy and how it allows the company to collect and aggregate data on consumers.

Furthermore, 66 per cent of respondents said national regulators should be doing more to force Google to comply with existing European Directives on data protection and privacy.

“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,” the organisation said.