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22 Apr, 2010 06:07

Consumer groups alerted by Google privacy policies

Privacy regulators around the world are fuming over Google's social networking site “Buzz”. Commissioners from ten countries have sent an open letter to Google demanding it stick to privacy laws.

Google is raising eyebrows again – this time concerning privacy rights and free speech issues. The problem is that their latest tool “Buzz” and mapping devices disclose more personal information about Google users than expected.

Google surveillance concerns brought delegations from as far afield as Canada and New Zealand to Washington. They are outraged by what they call Google’s disregard for privacy rights as new Google technology is unveiled, and those concerns are growing much louder in Washington.

“Google, when it launched Buzz, really did, in fact, ignore user’s privacy in a very egregious way,” said executive director for Consumer Watch, John Simpson.

Google’s solution? Creating a transparency button exposing dozens of nations requesting Google’s censorship of their citizens, an announcement critics are calling a PR diversion to mask Google’s real problem with privacy violation.

However, while Google censorship tool is exposing what the government does not want us to see, it is not addressing how easily Google displays private information, sometimes without the user’s knowledge.

”But if you really need that kind of privacy, the reality is that search engines including Google do retain this information for some time,” said Google CEO Eric Schmidt.

Eric Schmidt was an adviser to then-president-elect Barack Obama and contributed, along with other Google CEOs, $25,000 for Obama swearing-in ceremony.

Google also donated close to a million dollars to the Obama campaign which, critics say, landed some Google employees with White House jobs.

”And this was despite the fact that Obama had said “Look, I am not going to have these revolving door between lobbyists and government,” Simpson said.

Government watchdog groups have launched their own campaign against Google with the Department of Justice, which may bring the corporation’s alleged antitrust practices into prospective.

Google claims that most requests to obtain details about its users come from the United States. RT contributor Wayne Madsen says the Internet giant needs to be careful about who it gives people's information to.

“They are in a business to make money first of all, and second they do not want to run foul of the United States government – 3,580 requests, many from US government agencies,” he told RT.

“Google will say a lot of this [information disclosure] had to do with criminal investigations, things like posting child pornography images including on YouTube, which it owns, but we do not know that. I think that data protection commissioners really want to know what is at the essence of these requests for this user data.”