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Google's privacy director resigns

03 Apr 2013
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Google's privacy director has resigned from her position following nearly 10 years of service at the search giant.

Alma Whitten worked at Google since 2003, taking over as privacy director in 2010.

Following the resignation some privacy advocates have questioned whether Whitten succeeded in bringing stronger privacy regulations to Google.

"During her 10 years at Google, Alma has done so much to improve our products and protect our users," a Google spokesperson said in a statement sent into V3.

"The privacy and security teams, and everyone else at Google, will continue this hard work to ensure that our users' data is kept safe and secure."

Whitten ascended to the position of privacy director in the wake of the furore created by revelations that it had been collecting private Wi-Fi data via Google's Street View cars.

In 2010, Google was accused of harvesting private Wi-Fi data through the use of the vehicles. According to reports, the cars were collecting payload data from open Wi-Fi points for around four years.

At the time, Google reported that the data collection was accidental. Google representatives said the collection came when a piece of code was unintentionally kept on Street View Cars that went out into the wild.

That same year Google also faced privacy concerns involving its first foray into social networking. Google's Buzz social networking service faced an onslaught of criticism when it deputed in early 2010.

Google was taken to task over its decision to transplant Gmail user information to Buzz without their consent. The privacy issue eventually led to Google reworking its privacy policy and paying an $8.5m fine.

According to some privacy advocates, Whitten failed to improve upon Google privacy record following the repeated gaffes. In a recent blog post, consumer advocate with the Consumer Watchdog group, John Simpson, said Whitten failed to increase Google's privacy efforts.

Simpson wrote that Google has continued to violate privacy law following the appointment of Whitten. He points to Google's recent Federal Trade Commission (FTC) fine as proof that the search giant still doesn't take privacy seriously.

"About all that happened on Whitten's watch was that Google became a confirmed serial privacy violator," said Simpsons.

"No sooner was the ink dry on the Buzz Consent Decree with the FTC, than Google was caught hacking around privacy settings on Apple's Safari browser, which is on iPads and iPhones, and lying about its practices on the Google website. Google was fined $22.5m by the FTC, pocket change to the internet giant."

Google software engineering director Lawrence You is expected to take over for Whitten this June.

Simpsons doubted You will be able to change the privacy culture at Google. According to him, privacy is not an important issue in the eyes of Google executives.

"Privacy at Google is a joke," continued Simpsons.

"Google's executives view the taps on the wrist the internet giant has received for privacy violations as nothing more than the cost of doing business."

Earlier it emerged that European data watchdogs had stepped up their investigations into the company over its decision to unify all of its privacy policies into a single document. Many of those watchdogs believe this contravenes European laws.

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James Dohnert

James is a freelance writer and editor. In addition to ClickZ, his work has appeared in publications like V3, The Commonwealth Club,, and Shonen Jump magazine. He studied Journalism at Weber State University.

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