Scratch that slanderous stereotype about Canadians being pushovers. Jennifer Stoddart, Privacy Commissioner of Canada, has fired off a strongly-worded complaint to CEO Eric Schmidt about Google's cavalier attitude in the Google Buzz launch. Her counterparts in France, Germany, Israel, Italy, Ireland, Netherlands, New Zealand, Spain and the United Kingdom have co-signed. (Catch up on the broadly mixed reception to Buzz covered by the Wire here.)
Stoddart says in the letter that the Buzz launch, in which Google "automatically assigned users a network of 'followers' from among people with whom they corresponded most often on Gmail, without adequately informing Gmail users about how this new service would work ... violated the fundamental principle that individuals should be able to control the use of their personal information." Google may have corrected the mistake, but Stoddart states on behalf of her cosignatories that "we remain extremely concerned about how a product with such significant privacy issues was launched in the first place. We would have expected a company of your stature to set a better example."
Yet this is not the first time Google created privacy problems that had be fixed "after the fact." Stoddart cites the company's belated response to concerns about its "retention of unblurred facial images" from Google Street View. She and the others conclude by calling on Google "to incorporate fundamental privacy principles directly into the design of new online services." (These "principles" are laid out in six bullet points.) The letter concludes with a request for Google's plan to address future privacy concerns before new products roll out.