Google and Facebook urged to forge stronger government ties

Google and Facebook should forge stronger relationships with governments and submit any proposed changes to consultations, tech comms experts have suggested.

PRWeek podcast: on the latest privacy changes by Google
PRWeek podcast: on the latest privacy changes by Google

PRWeek’s latest podcast tackled the recent policy changes by Google and whether social media developments have harmed privacy for consumers.

Google has been accused of breaching European law with the recent changes to its privacy policy. The changes mean that private data collected by one of its services can be shared with its other sites such as YouTube, Gmail and Google+.

David Vindel, MD of European technology at Ketchum Pleon, said social media companies like Google and Facebook could do more to sooth privacy concerns with consumers and the media by ‘playing a more active role’ in communicating changes to governments. He added that the 1995 data protection directive was ‘massively out of date’.

He said: ‘Google and Facebook have to strike more of a public/private partnership with governments – and I say this in the plural because the internet is global and every government has different data protection laws. We need a body set up to help these companies work collectively to try to create a good partnership with government officials and set good parameters.’

Vindel also suggested deterrents for when social media companies ‘misuse’ consumer data, in the same way as when banks lose data they are fined by the Financial Services Authority.

Pete Hendrick, MD of Rocket, called for consultations to be compulsory when organisations like Google seek to make policy changes.

He said: ‘Japan and France have been in opposition and asked Google to hold up and have a consultation period. Google’s response was that it would confuse people too much and that it needed to drive the changes through. Google has not opened up a consultation because there will be lots of opposition and then when it decides to still go ahead with changes it will be seen to openly ignore potentially millions of users.’

Hendrick said that Google, when forcing these changes through, had been ‘a lot more transparent' than Facebook has been in the past: ‘It’s done very well in telling users what was going to happen, it certainly didn’t go under the radar. However it just told people what was happening, it didn’t ask people's views on it. Also, it’s not clear from an opt-in, opt-out perspective.’

Watch the full podcast here

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