European privacy watchdog concerned Google Maps for iOS violates law

European privacy watchdog concerned Google Maps for iOS violates law
Google Maps for iOS was an instant success.  The Independent Center for Privacy Protection Schleswig-Holstein in Germany says that the set-up page upon launching Google Maps in iOS for the first time violates European data protection law.

Like most smartphone applications, Google Maps prompts users to accept the terms of service and its privacy policy in its initial start-up screen. Google provides the familiar warning that the user is about to share location data and that anonymous information is collected to improve the application. The option box next to that warning is selected “on” by default, and does not provide an "opt-out" selection, which violates European data protection law.  What is more interesting is that even if Google were to offer an opt-out possibility now, the current implementation of the app would still be rubbing the wrong way against the law.

European privacy watchdog concerned Google Maps for iOS violates law
When companies want to collect personal data, users must be given the option to “opt-in” versus the common practice of “opt-out.” Moreover, The Independent Center for Privacy Protection Schleswig-Holstein contends that the “anonymous” data is not really anonymous at all, "All available information points to having linkable identifiers per user."  Location data is “personal data” and is treated as such under the law. “When Google collects such data about routes traveled, it collects personal data for which consent must be obtained,” according to attorney Mark Janson who works with IT legal issues.

Google reiterated that users can turn the information collection feature off any time which is fine, but that really is not the point given that the EU has already been poking holes in Google’s overall privacy policy.  Providing an update where that check box is not pre-selected and allowing an "opt-in" feature is clearly not a programming intense task (not for Google anyway) and since new apps usually have some minor updates pushed through soon after initial release, it is possible that Google may be able to address these concerns before any formal inquiries are made.

sources: Computerworld via Ars Technica

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20 Comments

1. KingKurogiii

Posts: 5713; Member since: Oct 23, 2011

Google: oh...okay. *changes "Accept and continue" box dialog to "Opt-In and continue" DONE!

10. Droid_X_Doug

Posts: 5993; Member since: Dec 22, 2010

Sometimes Euro watchdogs get a little on the pedantic side. If the issue is legit, then the fix is an easy one that can get pushed in a maintenance release. No big deal.

15. networkdood

Posts: 6330; Member since: Mar 31, 2010

Exactly, this will be an easy fix - but they should offer that option at the startup screen - for Android users, we know where to go to opt out, so we do not care.

2. PointMaza

Posts: 60; Member since: Dec 14, 2012

Google is Awesome..

3. wendygarett unregistered

Downloaded Google maps on my iPhone 3gs, iPhone 4, iPhone 4s, iPhone 5, iPad 2, and the new iPad :)

11. Droid_X_Doug

Posts: 5993; Member since: Dec 22, 2010

What, no OG iPhone? Or the 3G? No complete collection?

13. wendygarett unregistered

I thought Google maps apps are applicable for ios 6 only? Lol

17. Droid_X_Doug

Posts: 5993; Member since: Dec 22, 2010

Wasn't Maps on each phone until iP5 with iOS 6? And isn't gMaps compatible with iOS 5 (maybe even v. 4)? If so, then you should be able to get gMaps on the 3G.... :-)

18. wendygarett unregistered

Ios 4 and 5 had Google maps built :)

4. cripton805

Posts: 1485; Member since: Mar 18, 2012

Am I really that important that someone would really care about where I go?

7. maier9900

Posts: 272; Member since: Dec 17, 2011

You don't need to be famous... we are all watched !!!

9. cripton805

Posts: 1485; Member since: Mar 18, 2012

Well I guess they will know everytime I wipe my ass. lmao

19. maier9900

Posts: 272; Member since: Dec 17, 2011

Glad i don't have their job... !

5. crankyd00d

Posts: 191; Member since: Oct 17, 2011

Stupid politicians, the way I see it is that it is Google's service, so they should have the right to ask people to help improve it

6. soshi

Posts: 154; Member since: Mar 08, 2012

even if there is option to turn it off I still turn it on. I want they improve their service and I love they make new product user oriented. laws is just for the rich, they want money

8. lukasound

Posts: 152; Member since: Nov 16, 2011

As soon as I see an action from anyone's part (google or government) in abusing my personal data, i will turn it off. Until then, i will keep it on if it might improve google services.

12. skymitch89

Posts: 1452; Member since: Nov 05, 2010

How hard is it to tap the check box to opt-out? It only adds like 3 seconds to getting into the app (just reading what it is about), unless a person decides to read the entire "Learn More", "Terms of Service", and/or "Privacy Policy".

14. Edmund

Posts: 656; Member since: Jul 13, 2012

Not only that, but the agreement is far too vague, which is a definite no no in law : What exactly are you accepting - the terms of service and privacy policy, or the statement, which is also included in the privacy policy. This is an actual extract from google's TOS "When you upload or otherwise submit content to our Services, you give Google (and those we work with) a worldwide license to use, host, store, reproduce, modify, create derivative works (such as those resulting from translations, adaptations or other changes we make so that your content works better with our Services), communicate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute such content. The rights you grant in this license are for the limited purpose of operating, promoting, and improving our Services, and to develop new ones. This license continues even if you stop using our Services (for example, for a business listing you have added to Google Maps). Some Services may offer you ways to access and remove content that has been provided to that Service. Also, in some of our Services, there are terms or settings that narrow the scope of our use of the content submitted in those Services. Make sure you have the necessary rights to grant us this license for any content that you submit to our Services."

16. networkdood

Posts: 6330; Member since: Mar 31, 2010

if you are so worried about it, then do not even use google products...end of story

20. rajagopalan.k

Posts: 35; Member since: Dec 17, 2012

now WTF!!!! you want accurate positioning of places around you.... but you don't want to tell exactly where you are????

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