Google pledges quest for tighter privacy controls

* Privacy counsel says “stronger” measures being sought

* Google “puzzled” that privacy ad settings not widely used

By Allyn Fisher-Ilan

JERUSALEM, Oct 26 (BestGrowthStock) – Google Inc (Read more about Google Stock Analysis) (GOOG.O: ) is
“building stronger controls” to safeguard privacy, a senior
executive said on Tuesday after the search engine giant’s
admission to inadvertently gathering emails and passwords across
the globe.

Peter Fleischer, Google’s global privacy counsel, told
reporters at a conference on Internet security he was “puzzled”
that users had made scant use of privacy controls made available
on the site months ago, and Google would try to improve them.

“We are building stronger controls,” Fleischer said, adding
that developers were seeking to construct a “privacy design
document” to bar any abuses of user information.

Google said in a blog published on its website on Friday
that its “Street View” cars around the world had accidentally
collected more personal data than previously thought, opening
the door to new potential probes. [ID:nN22194753]

The breach had been discovered by regulators in Germany, and
Canada’s privacy watchdog has also charged Google with violating
the rights of thousands of Canadians.

When asked whether he envisaged any further legal steps
against the company, Fleischer replied Google had been “very
clear” that none of the data gathered accidentally had been
“looked at.”

He said “a number” of prosecutors in other countries had
looked at the case and already dismissed it, citing Spain and
New Zealand as examples.

EARLY WARNINGS

He said Google had warned previously of the prospect of
unintentional gathering of “fragmentary” information, alluding
to the company’s admission in May that its cars that take
panoramic pictures of cities across the world had collected data
from unsecured wireless networks in more than 30 countries.

The information gathered was typically limited to fragments
of unencrypted data because the cars collecting it were always
moving and their wireless equipment automatically changed
channels about five times a second, Google has said.

Fleischer said Google would now “take a look at all our
privacy policies to strengthen them, to learn the lessons of
that mistake and to reduce the chances of something like that
ever happening again”.

He presented a series of privacy measures already in place
on the Google site, such as an ad preference manager installed
in the past year that provides subscribers with the option of
choosing which advertisements would pop up on their screens.

Tens of thousands of people view that page each week, but
only one in seven of what amounts to an already small pool of
Google users actually opts to change a setting, Fleischer said.

“I am puzzled why more people don’t use more of the privacy
controls,” Fleischer added. He wondered whether “people feel
comfortable with the status quo” or if the application needed
improvement to make it easier to access.

Despite the “endless debates” about leaked IP addresses,
Fleischer said, “maybe the average user is not really that
focused on it, they’re more focused on the embarrassing party
photo.”
(Editing by Michael Shields)
(allyn.fisher.thomsonreuters.com; +972-2-6322202; Reuters
Messaging:[email protected]))

Google pledges quest for tighter privacy controls