EU Regulators vs. Consumers on Privacy

Among consumers, privacy is a little understood thing — on both sides of the Atlantic. I was struck by the contrast in this article, describing Google’s struggle with European regulators over privacy, between their heightened concers and EU consumers’ apparent lack of concern:

European consumers appear to be less worried than some regulators about the potential loss of privacy. ComScore, a research firm in Reston, Virginia, found that 8 in 10 Europeans used Google for online search queries.

However this statement, that 80% of European consumers use Google, doesn’t mean that if you sat them down and asked them about privacy that they would express concerns. But their behavior either reflects ignorance or indifference — or a basic trust in Google.

Here’s a passage regarding the regulators’ attitudes and some of the challenges Google faces in dealing with varying privacy rules in different countries:

In Switzerland, data protection officials are quietly pressing Google to scrap plans to introduce Street View, a mapping service that provides a vivid, 360-degree, ground-level photographic panorama from any address. Swiss privacy law prohibits the unauthorized use of personal images or property.

In Germany, where Street View is also not available, the simple process of taking photographs for the service violates privacy laws.

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