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Apparently confirmed. If Google force a European Account Holder to have a public Google Profile with their "real name" on it, they are BREAKING THE LAW. Read below. US account holders should write a letter to Larry Page and the Board of Google to pressure them into changing their policy. https://plus.google.com/u/0/106055159954550860573/posts/U5u4WYpF7uc

If you're an EU Google Account holder, you can write a complaint to your local Google offices, then if they fail to reply and take corrective action, take them to your EU nation's information commission. You can find their offices here - http://www.google.com/intl/en/about/corporate/company/address.html so start the letter writing.

Just checking over this, but it does look like "Google Profiles" breaches european privacy law, specifically "The Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) Regulations 2003"'s section 18 on directories of subscribers. Basically, anyone running a communications service in the EU who publishes a public directory, has to allow subscribers an opt-out from this directory or allow them to be entirely selective as to what if any information is published about them.

Update: As Google operate Gmail and Gtalk services to EU subscribers, they are covered by this legislation. It does look airtight, Google are required by EU law to allow the subscribe full control over what is and is not made public on their profile. And they may even require google to make their profile entirely private.

Please re-share this.

Update 2: I have contacted the Data Commissioner's office, and have been instructed I do appear to have a legitimate grounds for complaint against Google, as does any other EU account holder, and I should write a written complaint to their offices at

Data Protection Officer

Google London
Google UK Ltd
Belgrave House
76 Buckingham Palace Road
London SW1W 9TQ
United Kingdom
These Regulations implement Articles 2, 4, 5(3), 6 to 13, 15 and 16 of Directive 2002/58/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 12 July 2002 concerning the processing of personal data and...
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56 comments
 
I believe that the "opt out" is to stop using the free service.
 
Nope. It's explicit, it has to be an offered option to not be on the subscriber directory, and allow subscribers to edit their listing.
 
Also, Google can't hide behind it being a 'free' service. Google seem to be making a whole lot of money off their 'free' services.
 
It's still publicly listed. The law doesn't define a directory as something that has to be searchable.
 
+Shira Frozenmoon It might be worth while checking your state law to see if they have similar requirements for telecommunication firms. But yes, google could well end up only allowing EU residents the right to operate under a pseudonym. Something to take up with your congrescritters.
Norv N.
 
Thank you for sharing these results.
 
Even if Google is breaking the law in the EU, the following questions remain unanswered: will the ICO or other DPAs bother to enforce the law, and does Google care? It's going o be a cost/benefit analysis, and as usual, the cosumers' rights in that analysis are pretty low on the list. (Unless they create a lot of noise, hint, hint).
 
The ICO has a pretty good record on enforcement. They can also impose 'rolling fines' until required changes are made.
 
Thank you so much for digging this up!
 
You guys are missing the distinction between a Google Profile and a Google Account. No one is forcing you to have a profile
 
G+ is not a communication service. Gmail and GTalk are - and those are the ones that were mentioned above
 
whatever the merits of the complaint, don't think that's what google want. g+ is only 3 week old, and already facing a potential privacy court case and backlash from users. and it's only a name.....
 
+Jannik Lindquist From the legislation - “communication” means any information exchanged or conveyed between a finite number of parties by means of a public electronic communications service, but does not include information conveyed as part of a programme service, except to the extent that such information can be related to the identifiable subscriber or user receiving the information; - ie, so long as google require subscribers to be identifiable it's a communications service.
Wendy B
 
G+ can be used to communicate with any number of people or a single person, so, even if it's a gray area, I think it should not be overlooked.
 
Obviously, some profiles that have been up for review are now back again. I think Google is actually adamant about pseudonyms on Profiles - but that doesn't prevent them from being nuanced
 
A bad policy selectively enforced is still a bad policy.
 
Jay, you are misinterpretating the text. The paragraph you give there does not mean that every service that requires a profile is a communications service. It means that every communications service requires a profile (or at least, that the users can be identified as recievers of information). Case in point: the white pages is not a communications service
 
Um... You do realise that 'White Pages' DIRECTORIES are EXACTLY WHAT THIS SECTION OF THE LEGISLATION WAS WRITTEN FOR right? It does not matter if the Directory is published from something that isn't a communication service, so long as it's a directory of subscribers to a communication service.
 
Basically, Google Profiles are a directory of Google's subscribers who have either opted in, or were required to opt in to access some of Google's services. It's the last part that makes it illegal under this european directive.
 
As you might expect, I don't agree.A Google Profile is not required to use Google's communications services - which is Gmail and Gtalk
 
Google is still a communication service company, and Google Profiles is still a directory of it's subscribers to those services. Incidentally, I draw your attention to Gtalk, Huddle and Hang-out being bundled into Google+; which very much makes it a communications service.
 
Also, if Google+ is not a communication service, what is it?
 
Perhaps Google could kick everyone in the EU off Google+. That should make the network a huge success.
 
Ah, former monks. We need to update the sign. Add 'All Service Providers Suck' too.
 
:-D "If your service fails to appeal to Monks, it is doomed." Web APIs are a form of proprietary software, which of course is a form of software, which sucks.
 
having read the section in question, where are you getting the bit about being able to withdraw their listing whilst retaining any/all services? 18 (5) makes provision for alloing the subscribed to withdraw their data at any time, but makes no mention that they would still be entitled to services.

I can see nothing to suggest it would be illegal to have a service which required subscribers to agree to a directory listing; only that provision must be made to allow subscribers to verify, correct or withdraw from that listing. "I'd like to withdraw from your listing" "OK fine, but that means we won't be able to provide any services to you any more" seems to be within the law.
 
+Paul Brocklehurst That wouldn't pass the test of if the action was trying to vex legislative intent. The intent is clear, that someone running a service can't force people into publishing their name in a directory. Your proposition would basically nullify the entire law by simply allowing someone to force people into publishing their name in a directory on the grounds of giving them the only opt-out of ceasing to be a subscriber. The inherent assumption of the language in the law refers to subscribers, so the application is that subscribers can opt out and remain subscribers.
 
ah I see. So basically all Google has to do is add the 'hide from public' option to name and picture to comply?
 
Yes. That would be fine under the EU privacy regulations. Complete control over what, if anything, is published in the public profile has to be at the control of the subscriber. The problem for google is that they set it up for a 'real persons name' to be the account identifier, which isn't allowed since that forces publication.
 
+Francis Davey Your interpretation of the law hinges entirely on your declaration that Google+ is not an electronic communication service. Now, under the actual law's definition, that is only the case if you establish that Google+ is only a content server. That's not going to be easy to prove since it allows direct conversations between it's subscribers.

However, Gtalk is clearly an electronic communication service, and all Google+ subscribers are also Gtalk subscribers. (Gtalk is what powers Huddles and Hangouts)

So yes, it does meet the definition of a Subscriber Directory. And of course, I did contact ICO to confirm it needed to be investigated, which they did.
 
It should be pointed out here that Francis is a working UK-based lawyer with a strong interest in these issues (I met him in connection with the Open Rights Group), so his opinion on this matter is actually worth more than most people's.

That said, I would be most interested to hear what the ICO have to say and will be contacting them myself (at some stage, probably not today now).
 
Yes, but Francis hasn't followed on entirely in his argument to demonstrate that Google+ is a content service rather than a communication service. And probably didn't join it up to GTalk/GMail communication services being tied into it too.
 
Great news! That condition really raised some serious issues about privacy.
 
Thanks for this, I'll be sharing on. It's a real disappointment that pseudonimity is not currently enabled on plus, as would have been expected given Alma Whitten's post on the Google Public Policy blog in Feb this year.
 
Doesn't this apply to Facebook just as well?
 
Well Facebook don't force you to publish this information
 
It's not an 'opt out of listing' tho, nor does it allow you to edit the listing to fully protect all personal information including the common name.
 
how is opting out of search different from opting out of a 'directory' listing, given there's no actual page listing people's names?
 
but my 'listing' can actually just be a blank page with my name. that's not a listing. it doesn't 'list' anything.

and given you couldn't look me up anywhere, that wouldn't be much of a directory either. (though the Act fails to define what it considers a 'directory' as far as I can see)
 
It lists your name, that's enough. In the same way that a phone book directory listing can 'just' list your name, but would be explicitly covered by the legislation.
 
What makes you think just a listing of names is covered when the legislation is not "explicit" on what it considers a directory to be? 
 
Google Profiles certainly constitutes a directory service under the regulation.
 
what's to fix? All the regulators have said is they're looking into it. There's been no confirmation that Google are doing anything wrong.
 
+Paul Brocklehurst It's your opinion that Google are doing nothing wrong. A lot of people disagree with you, a lot of evidence has been provided into why it is wrong for business, legal and moral reasons; polling suggests that those who operate with their real-names only are the minority, and now European Regulators are investigating it. Considering that it could take as long as years for anything to come out of regulator investigation, why move to saying you'll only wait for a regulator finding before accepting that Google might be doing something wrong?
 
conversely, right back at you Jay. It's your opinion that Google are breaking the law, and a lot of people disagree with you; and the fact they're investigating something is not proof of guilt. As for the polling, yes, many sites have a convention of using pseudonyms, or not even allowing a real name (e.g. by not allowing space characters); I'm on a couple of sites where I don't use my full name largely I think due to character limits on usernames and being cursed with a long surname. There are also a couple of forums on sensitive subjects where I value my anonymity; they aren't going to close just because of G+. I wonder if there's a poll that asks the big question - do we want pseudonyms on Google+ or not?
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