Lately it seems people are queuing up to lay into Google’s recent track record with privacy slip-ups. Following the Street View wifi snafu, we’ve seen inquiries and legal action in some countries and now a number of UK politicians have joined the fray as part of an online debate into the issue.
The debate, hosted by Spiked magazine, features contributions from MPs of the main political parties and guess what? Most of them are pretty critical Google’s attitude to privacy.
Conservative MP Robert Halfon calls for the UK to mount its own investigation into Google, saying: “The fact that Google has been collecting people’s personal data broadcast over their wifi networks is a huge infringement on personal liberty. I find it amazing that Google did this, firstly, without permission, and secondly, that the company seemed to have got away with it without causing uproar.”
Meanwhile, former Labour MP Derek Wyatt who chaired the All Party Internet Group speaks out against Google’s data collection record. “(Google) seems to think it is bigger than everybody, that it doesn’t matter what other countries’ governments believe, or what their citizens think. I am pleased that Germany and Italy are taking Google to court. And, in the long term, I hope Europe will stand up to Google”.
For those who read the tech press religiously, these are hardly original viewpoints but the fact that they’re being expressed by politicians shows that there may well be an appetite to take further action in the UK.
Spiked’s Tim Black tells me that the left-leaning site started the online debate because “…it is not clear-cut. We wanted to ask whether Google’s activity – much of it to users’ benefit – really poses a threat to an individual’s freedom? And should innovation, itself the product of a organisation’s freedom to experiment, be curtailed by state regulation?”
Even if some MPs do have an appetite to launch a full public enquiry into Google’s conduct, there may be some resistance at the top of government. Before coming to power, Prime Minister David Cameron was known to be keen on building a good relationship with the search giant. In 2007 he spoke at a Google-run conference, for example.
London’s Metropolitan Police recently started an investigation into the data Google says it accidentally collected via its Street View cars.