Thursday, June 3, 2010

Andy Beal's Marketing Pilgrim: Google’s Data Collection Practices Gets Canada’s Attention …. Again

Google must be pretty excited that Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook have been under intense scrutiny as of late regarding privacy. Why would they celebrate that other than it being a stumbling block to a “frienemy”? The more that Facebook gets the privacy stink eye from the world the less attention can be paid to Google’s own battles over their alleged breaches of privacy.

Google has been under scrutiny by Germany regarding their collection of wireless network data that occurred while their little Google Maps mobiles went around taking pictures of the world. Now Canada can be added to the list of countries that are looking into this practice. We know from past experience that Canada fights hard when it comes to privacy concerns (just ask Facebook).

Reuters reports:

Canadian Privacy Commissioner Jennifer Stoddart said on Tuesday that she was concerned about the privacy implications stemming from the collection of data from wireless networks in Canada, the United States and other countries.

“We have a number of questions about how this collection could have happened,” she said in a statement. “We’ve determined that an investigation is the best way to find the answers.”

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission has already begun an informal inquiry into the matter.

Google said in a statement that it would cooperate with authorities to answer their questions and address their concerns. It has previously denied any wrongdoing.

Google has been on the fringes of the “too much information” argument with its Street View product since its inception so this is familiar territory to a degree. Lately, though, the additional revelation that data from wireless networks has been collected along with the ‘accidental’ collection of data run on those networks has raised new red flags about Google’s policies.

Canada is not alone in its concern.

Suits have been filed in Washington D.C., California, Massachusetts and Oregon by people who accuse Google of violating their privacy by collecting data from open Wi-Fi networks.

U.S. lawmakers have asked the U.S. Federal Trade Commission to look into the matter, and a district court in Portland, Oregon, has ordered Google to make two copies of a hard drive containing data from the United States and turn them over to the court.

So where should we as marketers stand on all of this? I notice that most of our readers stay mum on these discussions and my suspicion is that everyone is dying to get their hands on more data but doesn’t want to be known for having it. It’s the Internet marketers’ ultimate Catch-22. You need the data but having the data puts you and your company at risk of being labeled a privacy violator in the name of a few more sales. Ask Mark Zuckerberg and the Facebook crew how that is working out for them these days.

So where is the line? Is there really a line yet or are we just going to be continually pushing the current privacy boundaries to loosen people’s tolerance for these ‘breaches’ to the point where everyone just rolls over, plays dead and goes along with the Google party line? That comes from their CEO who has said “”If you have something that you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place”?

Oooops, sorry, that was from December of 2009. As of May 2010 in response to this current flap his take as reported by the Guardian is:

Google chief executive, Eric Schmidt, has defended his company’s record on privacy in the wake of the discovery that its Street View camera cars had accidentally recorded data from unsecured domestic Wi-Fi networks, insisting that Google has the “most consumer-centric privacy policy of any service online”.

Gee, it’s so hard to keep up with what needs to be said at any given moment to do the corporate CYA dance, isn’t it? Andy Beal's Marketing Pilgrim

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