Submission Number: 00012
Received: 4/4/2011 10:19:05 PM
Commenter: Marie Shroff
Organization: Office of the Privacy Commissioner
State: Outside the United States
Agency: Federal Trade Commission
Initiative: Proposed Consent Agreement In the Matter Google, Inc. (Google Buzz), File No. 1023136
Attachments: No Attachments
Proposed consent agreement in the matter of Google Inc. (Google Buzz), file - # 1023136
The New Zealand Privacy Commissioner is the authority responsible for enforcing the New Zealand Privacy Act 1993.
A large number of New Zealand consumers utilise Google’s services including its Gmail web-based email product. I became concerned at the time of the launch of Google Buzz at the effect on the privacy of New Zealand consumers using the Gmail service. I was sufficiently concerned to join nine of my counterparts in other countries in sending a joint letter to Google to express serious concern at how it had rolled out its social networking service to the detriment of the privacy of its existing email service customers. See www.priv.gc.ca/media/nr-c/2010/let_100420_e.pdf
I have continued to hold concerns but there are practical limits to what a national privacy enforcement authority can effectively do in relation to the practices of a major foreign-based company notwithstanding that its service is directly available to local consumers.
Therefore I am pleased to observe the serious way in which the Federal Trade Commission has taken up the case. The solutions proposed to be imposed under the consent order, and the ability for the FTC to take further action if the order is not complied with, are an appropriate response to the circumstances of the case.
I am especially pleased to note that Part III of the consent order will require the establishment, implementation and maintenance of a comprehensive privacy program designed to:
• address privacy risks related to the development and management of new and existing products and services for consumers; and
• protect the privacy and confidentiality of personal information.
An obligation to have a comprehensive privacy programme, overseen by the FTC, is a sophisticated response that provides a significant degree of assurance in relation to the activities of such a noteworthy and innovative player on the global information scene. It represents an approach that is well matched to the privacy risks of the business model adopted by this company.
The other provisions in the consent order dealing with such matters as third party sharing and oversight of the handling of consumer complaints are also welcomed.
New Zealand consumers were affected by the actions of Google which gave rise to the FTC investigation and they will be affected by the proposed consent order. In my view, the consent order represents a very promising action on behalf of consumers whether based in the USA or elsewhere and I welcome it.
New Zealand Privacy Commissioner