Data privacy has been in the headlines a lot lately, and thanks to the latest bit of news concerning its photo system, Android is right there with it. The increased attention has brought a flurry of media coverage, and even political types (who, for better or worse, are usually a step or two behind) are getting in on the action. The Vice President of the European Commission recently told Channel 4 News that Android’s potentially harmful privacy policies are concerning… and may actually be illegal, at least by European Union common law.
“This really concerns me, and this is against the law because nobody has the right to get your personal data without you agreeing to this,” said EU VP Viviane Reding. “They are spotting you, they are following you, they are getting information about your friends, about your whereabouts about your preferences… That is certainly not what you thought you bought into when you downloaded a free-of-charge app. That’s exactly what we have to change.”
Reding didn’t cite any specific apps when voicing her concerns, nor did she mention Android’s extensive permission system, which informs users of an app’s capabilities before it’s downloaded or installed. While this is a comforting way for user to keep informed on software capabilities, it’s often ignored, taken as non-explicit agreement of mild privacy invasion, or circumvented altogether.
The comments above don’t amount to an official investigation, and there’s no indication that this is in the works. That said, privacy violation is taken rather more seriously in many European countries than it is in the United States, and Google has been in this kind of hot water before, when it accidentally gathered WiFi information while taking photos for Google Maps’ Street View. EU politicians have little reason to be well-disposed towards Google when it comes to privacy, and trouble may be looming ahead.