Google Claims It Is Legally Untouchable Outside US
September 23, 2013
Suddenly, Google’s actions in Europe make a lot more sense. ZDNet reports on a recent claim from the company in, “Google: We Are Above UK Privacy Laws.” This is an interesting development in our increasingly globalized, digital society.
At the heart of the matter is a legal action brought forth by a group of British users of Apple‘s Safari browser, who charge Google with illegally tracking them online. The company doesn’t bother to deny the allegations, but does insist it cannot be prosecuted outside its home country. As for U.S. officials, the FTC already found that Google did, indeed, circumvent Safari privacy settings. The write-up explains:
“The FTC charged Google with placing advertising tracking cookies on computers and devices without authorization. The firm was fined $22.5m by authorities in the United States after the FTC’s ruling. In response to the campaign group’s allegations, the search engine giant says in legal filings that as an American firm, British privacy laws do not apply, and so the matter cannot be brought to a U.K. court. . . . The tech giant does not believe the case is of a serious nature, and according to the claimants, said ‘the browsing habits of internet users are not protected as personal information, even when they potentially concern their physical health or sexuality.'”
To the cynical (or realistic) among us, this stance comes as no surprise. Still, seeing it in print is a little startling, as a few claimants quoted in the article attest. On the heels of Google’s recent “admission” about privacy expectations within Gmail (prompting outrage at many news outlets but given some perspective here), this assertion does nothing to help Google’s reputation on confidentiality.
For those of us who approach the Internet with the idea that nothing that traverses it is truly private, Google’s position on privacy is a shruggable revelation. This stance on international prosecution, though, is intriguing; I am curious to see where it will lead.
Cynthia Murrell, September 23, 2013