Privacy & Google: French Want 69 Answers, EPIC Wants NSA Relationship Details

I wouldn’t want to be a lawyer in Google’s legal department. Every move Google makes these days is scrutinized by governments, regulators and NGOs. Almost weekly there are new lawsuits and new investigations.

According to a Bloomberg report, last week France’s data protection authority asked Google to answer 69 questions concerning Google’s new privacy policy and its use of consumer data to determine whether they violate European data protection rules. Google has been given an April 5 deadline to respond.

France is “taking the lead” on behalf of European regulators who had asked Google to delay implementing its new privacy policy until after they had a chance to determine its legality under European law. Google declined.

Here’s an excerpt from the French National Commission for Computing and Civil Liberties (CNIL) letter to Larry Page:

Here are two example questions from the list:

QUESTION 9.   The new privacy policy states: “We require opt-in consent for the sharing of any sensitive personal information.”

A) Please describe when, how and in which services sensitive data may be collected by Google.

B) Please provide the purposes of such collection.

C) Please confirm that Google defines « sensitive data » as referred in the introductory definitions of this questionnaire.

QUESTION 10.   Please describe how and in which cases “opt-in consent” is (or will be) collected for the sharing of sensitive data.

Back in the US, the Electronic Information Privacy Center, which has emerged as a vocal and determined Google critic, has appealed the denial of a Freedom of Information Act request for information about Google’s relationship with the National Security Agency (NSA), which has been widely reported. National security reasons were cited for the denial.

According to the filings Google began cooperating with the the NSA shortly after the Chinese Gmail hacking incident in January 2010. EPIC wants the information to understand how Gmail users’ personal data may be affected by “the relationship between the NSA and Google”:

Moreover, there is particular urgency for the public to obtain information about the relationship between the NSA and Google. As of 2009, Gmail had roughly 146 million monthly users, all of whom would be affected by any relationship between the NSA and Google . . .

In order for the public to make meaningful decisions regarding their personal data and email, it must be aware of the details of that relationship. Neither Google nor the NSA has provided information regarding their relationship. The public should be informed.

It’s unlikely that the US Federal Court will side with EPIC. The French, however, will probably have more success getting answers from Google.

Related Topics: Channel: Consumer | Google: Privacy | Legal: General | Legal: Privacy

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About The Author: is a Contributing Editor at Search Engine Land. He writes a personal blog Screenwerk, about SoLoMo issues and connecting the dots between online and offline. He also posts at Internet2Go, which is focused on the mobile Internet. Follow him @gsterling.

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