Google in trouble over data security

Google in trouble over data security

US laws could invalidate user privacy elsewhere

Organisations and individuals using Google's applications suite have no right to data privacy, a case in arbitration has shown.

Lakehead University in Canada was one of the first large-scale adopters of Google applications, but a storm has broken out after staff were told not to use it for personal or sensitive information.

The problem arises because the information is stored on Google's servers in the US where authorities have the right to read everything Google stores under the Patriot Act.

"The [university] did this on the cheap. By getting this free from Google, they gave away our rights," Tom Puk, a former president of Lakehead's faculty association, told the Globe and Mail.

"You would have no idea what they are up to with your information until, perhaps, it is too late. We do not want to be subject to laws of the Patriot Act."

Puk has brought a complaint against the university because his contract guarantees private electronic communications in line with Canada's privacy laws.

Darren Meister, associate professor of information systems at the Richard Ivey School of Business, said: "If I were a business manager, I would want to be very careful about what kind of data I made accessible to US law enforcement."

Google has declined to comment on the specific allegations. However, Peter Fleischer, global privacy counsel at Google, has called for unified privacy standards around the world to protect user data.