Google Maps app could Violate European Data Protection Law

There has been a lot of speculation about why Apple decided not to go with Google Maps for iOS 6 , however, there are two theories that stand out head and shoulders above the rest.  The first is that Google could have been trying to force Apple into integrating iOS Maps, to a much higher level than on any other iOS , by withholding features such as voice-guided turn-by-turn navigation. If this is the case, it backfired on Google.

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The second theory has more of a ring of truth about it. Google make money by selling targeted ads, based on user-provided information. That is fair enough, as long as the consumer has signed up to allowing Google to collect said information.  Apple does not make money in this way and the thought is that they dropped Google in a bid to protect their customers.

It would appear that, with the new Google Maps app for iOS 6 , Google have got their own way after all.  When the app has been downloaded, users are faced with the usual privacy policy and a warning about location data sharing that reads,

“Help us improve Google, including traffic and other services Anonymous location data will be collected by Google’s location service and sent to Google, and may be stored on your device”.

At this point users should be asked to tick the box if they agree to this. On Google Maps, the box is already ticked, by default and it is down to the user to untick it if they do not agree.

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This is in direct contravention of European Data Protection laws, particularly in Germany where laws are much stricter.  According to Marit Hansen, deputy privacy and information commissioner at the Independent Centre for Privacy Protection in Schles-Wig, Germany, the problem lies with Google’s definition of the word ‘anonymous’.  She says

“All available information points to having linkable identifiers per user, which would allow Google to track several location entries” and this is considered to be “personal data”.

European Law states that “informed consent” must be given before personal data can be used and Google Maps App clearly does not comply with this.  The matter is currently under discussion by members of the European Government but, in the meantime users will have to remember to untick the box themselves if they do not want Google to use their data.

Source : Computerworld

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