A critical analysis of Google's behavior towards its users in relation to the EU Data Protection Act and the US Safe Harbour Act

Bachelor Thesis, 2009

59 Pages, Grade: 2,1


Table of contents

1. Chapter one: Introduction
1.1 The rationale for this research
1.2 The aim and objectives of this research
1.3 Chapter overview

2. Chapter two: literature review
2.1 The internet
2.2 Data protection: Google is cumming under critcism
2.3 Privacy

3. Chapter three: methodology
3.1 Key concepts of research
3.1.1 Validity
3.1.2 Triangulation
3.1.3 Reliability
3.2 Research families
3.2.1 Qualitative and quantitative data
3.2.2 Primary data
3.2.3 Secondary data (Desk research)
3.3 Research Methods
3.3.1 Questionnaires
3.3.2 Experiments
3.3.3 Focus Groups
3.4 Ethical issues

4. Chapter four: analysis of primary and secondary research findings
4.1 Identification of reasons why Google is, despite criticism so popular
4.1.1 Google‘s story of success
4.1.2 Reasons for Google‘s success
4.1.3 General outcomes of the questionnaire
4.2 The relationship between how Google works with user sensitive data and in what way the company depends on these data
4.2.1 The dependence and use of data
4.2.2 The data Google collects
4.2.3 The legal side
4.3 Investigation of Google in terms of data privacy
4.3.1 Criticism on Google
4.3.2 Outcomes of the experiment
4.3.3 Analysis of the criticism about Google in relation to the legislation
4.4 Analysis of Google ‘ s customer awareness and behaviour
4.5 Recommendations for Google ‘ s customers to protect their data

5. Chapter five: conclusion
5.1 Review of research objectives
5.1.1 Objective one
5.1.2 Objective two
5.1.3 Objective three
5.1.4 Objective four
5.1.5 Objective five
5.2 Concluding remarks

6. Bibliography

7. Appendix
Experiment outcomes
Example of a questionnaire

Chapter 1 Introduction

1.1 The rationale for this research

Over the past years, the internet grew rapidly and became a very important industry. In order to save time and cost, people use search engines such as Google, MSN or Lycos.

According to Kaumanns, R. (2007), the largest of all search engines is the Google Search Engine. Google offers besides its search engine also applications such as Street View, Maps, Docs, Calendar and more which are all free to use. However, lots of criticism is published about Google on the internet and in a pri- vacy ranking of internet service companies of Privacy International in 2007 (privacyinternational.org, 2007), Google ranked last in terms of privacy for cus- tomers. Therefore, the researcher elected the title “A critical analysis of Google‘s behaviour in relation to the European Data Protection Act and the United States Safe Harbor Act“

The author wants to research, if and to what extent Google is infringing the laws, especially the European Data Protection Act of 12 July, 2002 and/or the United States Safe Harbor Act of July, 2000 by including user-sensitive data in their search results and by saving and sending all user enquiries and data to Google, as well as to research some cases in particular, such as Google Street View in relation to the European Charter of Fundamental Rights of December, 2000. Furthermore, he wants to analyse Google‘s customer awareness and behaviour and to find out why Google is, despite criticism, so popular.

1.2 The objectives of this research

In order to meet the aim of this research, the author set the following objectives:

1. Identification of reasons why Google is, despite criticism, so popular.

With this objective, the researcher wants to assess to what extent Google users are aware of the criticism surrounding Google.

Why are millions of people using Google, although the company is hardly criticised for their lack of data protection for individuals?

2. Evaluation on the relationship between how Google works with user-sensitive data and in what way the company depends on these data for their business.

These are two seperate issues that are combined with each other to demonstrate Google ‘ s need to collect data.

Is Google legally allowed to work and earn money with data of others?

3. Critical analysis of Google‘s behaviour in relation to the European Data Protec- tion Act and the United States Safe Harbor Act (among other laws)

The author wants to compare the criticism with the legal situation (Eurpean Data Protection Act of 12 July, 2002 and the United States Safe Harbor Act of July 2000, as well as Human Rights Acts) and to demonstrate by executing an experiment if an individual has the ability to find sensitive information about a certain person, and if so, how much can be found?

4. Analysis of Google‘s customer awareness and behaviour.

The author aims to discuss Google ‘ s customer awareness and behaviour with the participants of the experiment and to analyse and evaluate the customer be- haviour - this is in relation to the first and third objective. He wants to find out how the customers of Google feel about the stealing of data and data protection in particular.

5. Recommendations for Google‘s customers to protect their data.

This objective is in relation to the outcomes of the experiment mentioned in the third objective. If our society is very transparent when it comes to the internet, how can I improve my safety on the internet and protect my data?

1.3 Chapter overview

First, the author presents the literature review with a conclusion about the criti- cism about Google to give background information to the reader. Theory, such as privacy in general and the legislation will also be part of the literature review. Second, the author presents the methodology with the research strategies, ap- proaches, techniques, families and the general key concept of research. The in- tention is to explain and justify how the Project will be carried out. Then follows the main body with the analysis of primary and secondary research findings, such the comparison of Google‘s behaviour to the European Data Pro- tection Act and to the United States Safe Harbor Act, the evaluation on how Google works with user data and the outcomes of the questionnaire and experi- ment as well as the evaluation of Google‘s customer behaviour. This section will be divided by objectives.

The last chapter is the conclusion with a review of research objectives, followed by the appendices.

Chapter 2 Literature Review

2.1 The Internet

Internet technologies are changing our everyday lives. Through the history it constantly brought new innovations and made our lives easier in terms of access, time management and control. Billions of websites are available for access. According to comScore.com, 29.7 billion webpages were counted, with a growth rate of 6 million webpages per day in 2007. (comScore.com, 2007)

“ The internet offers a lot of crap, but the rest is pretty good actually “

(Zittrain, J., 2008, p.9)

In order to optimize information, user can use online search engines. According to a com Score survey, Google is the most popular and leading search engine among internet user. (comScore.com, 2007)

This literature review presents a conclusion of articles and sections of books on the criticism about Google. These statements reflect the main issues about Google in the news which made the author do this project and are needed in or- der to understand the purpose of this project. Moreover, the researcher will give theoretical principles such as the Data Protection Legislation and privacy in ge- neral.

2.2 Data protection: Google is comming under criticism

“The Google-Economy: How Google changes the economy“ by Kaumanns, R. (2007) explains how Google is in the focus of data protection specialists. The company has been ranked in an investigation of Privacy International among 23 internet companies on last place (privacyinternational.org, 2007). According to the investigation, Google has a profound aversion against privacy. Furthermore,

Google collects a vast quantity of data from their user to make it internationally accessible to the whole world. Privacy International is accusing Google of the growing possibilities to invade in the private sphere of user, as well as the lack of empowerment for user to control or delete their data.

“ We raised concerns regarding the dangers and privacy implications of having a centrally-located, widely popular data warehouse of millions of Internet users' searches, and how under controversial existing U.S. law, Google can be forced to hand over all such information to the U.S. government. “

(EFF, Criticism about Google, 2007)

“ Our mission is to organize the world ‘ s information and make it universally accessible and useful “

(google.com/corporate, 2009)

In terms of time management and access, Google helps millions of people a- round the world everyday but according to Kaumanns, search enquiries will be saved and sent to Google in conclusion with other user data. (Kaumanns, R., 2007) Kaumanns also says that their EULAs are infringing several Data Protec- tion Acts, because in paragraph 11 they are stating that the user give Google a perpetual, irrevocable, worldwide, royalty-free and non-exclusive licence to re- produce, adapt, modify, translate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute any content that the user submit, post or display on or through Google‘s services. This licence agreement applies for Google‘s browser Chrome.

“ Google's new web browser Chrome is fast, shiny, and requires users to sign their very lives over to Google before they can use it. Today's Internet outrage du jour has been Chrome's EULA, which appears to give Google a nonexclusive right to display and distribute every bit of content transmitted through the browser. “

(Arstechnica.com, From the News Desk, 2008)

“ Germans Towns saying “ Nein “ to Google Street View “

(San Francisco Chronicle, October issue, 2008)

Half naked people, nose picker, people in front of a porn movie theater, all clue- less photographed and included in Google Street View. According to the German Representative for Data Protection, Peter Schaar, the collected photographs and the implementation in Google Street View are infringing the German data protec- tion act. According to him, viewers can get an optical imagination about nature, buildings, the outer shape of houses and backyards and can imagine about furni- ture, value, accessibility and the possibility for theft. (bfdi.bund.de, 2008)

In Germany, as well as in lots of other European countries, Google stopped the aquisition of residences of properties because of governmental restrictions for now. (google.com/privacy, 2009)

According to the EFF, data protection moved from a secondary concern to a contentious political system.

John Perry Barlow, a member of the EFF is said that “ Relying on the government to protect our privacy is like asking a peeping tom to install your window blinds. “

He argues that governments can only set general restrictions, such as the shut down of Google Street View in Europe, or introduce new ammendments to the law but they cannot give restrictions for each website and. He says that people have to care themselves about their data and their privacy by trying to control it.

According to Blakley, B. (1999), the flow of data is immense and cannot be controlled by people. He says that new software is needed in order to protect systems and sensitive data.

2.3 Privacy

“ European regulators found that companies such as Google and Yahoo violate data protection acts by ... “ (Ryan Singel, Member of the EFF, eff.org, 2008) Privacy is a fundamental human right. The United Nations Declaration of Human Rights defined privacy as the following:

“ No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks. “

Bob Blakley, a principal analyst of the Burton Group stated that “Privacy is not the right to be left alone - I don ‘ t want to be alone, but I still want privacy. Furthermore, privacy is not anonymity - If I ‘ m anonymous, I don ‘ t need privacy. “

(Blakley, B., 1999, p. 53)

Article 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights states that “Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspon- dence. There shall be no interference by a public authority with the exercise of this right except such as is in accordance with the law and is necessary in a de- mocratic society in the interests of national security, public safety or the economic well-being of the country, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protec- tion of health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of o- thers. “

According to Zittrain, on one hand, Human Right Acts and Data Protection Legis- lation regulate Privacy, on the other hand freedom without privacy does not exist, because if everything one says and thinks is exposed one does not really have freedom. According to him, technology gave the tools and security concerns gave the legitimacy to keep track of everything one does. (Zittrain, J., 2008)

Google‘s mission statement is “to organize the world ‘ s information and make it universally accessible and useful. “ (google.com/corporate, 2009)

According to Ray Everett-Church (2008, p. 201), an expert on privacy laws, this statement has no qualifiers, because “Google is not limiting itself to the information that only people want organized and accessible, nor do they suggest limiting accessibility to anything that somebody should not accessing. “

Chapter 3 Methodology

3.1 Key Concepts of Research

“ Methodology is the theory of how research should be undertaken, including the theoretical and philosophical assumption upon which research is based and the implication of these for the method or methods adopted ”

(Saunders, M., 2000, p. 62)

In order to investigate the research question and to archieve the objectives men- tioned in the purpose of the research, the author needed to make a choice of how to implement the reseach families, methods and different approaches ap- propriately as well as to be sure of the reliability and validity of the results.

Before research, the author set clear objectives and defined the most effective and relevant methodology, which helped the author in order to get an accurate and informative project outcome. Furthermore, it helped him to explain the research question in regard to the objectives in more detail. Because this research involved a lot of content and different opinions and views, it was important to put emphasis on triangulation, because of possible threats to validity.

3.1.1. Validity

“ Validity has to do with whether your methods, approaches and techniques actu ally relate to, or measure, the issue you have been exploring ”

(Blaxter, L., 2006, p. 44)

Emphasis had to be put on validity, because the validity is about correctness and therefore the author had to put also a lot of emphasis on reliable sources. The validity of data can be improved by using triangulation.

3.1.2 Triangulation

” ...the term triangulation refers to obtaining evidence from multiple sources to ensure that a biased view is not being obtained from one informant. ”

(Remenyi, D., 1998, p. 145)

Triangulation involves the practice of viewing things from more than one perspec- tive. This can mean the use of different methods, different sources of data or e- ven different researchers within the study. (Denscombe, M., 2007, p.134) All information should be linked to each other in order to get the best outcome. To check the validity of information, the author made use of more that one research technique and collected different types of data from reliable sources.

3.1.3 Reliability

“ A good level of reliability means that the research instrument produces the same data time after time on each occasion that it is used, and that any variation in the results obtained through using the instrument is due entirely to variations in the thing being measured. None of the variation is due to fluctuations caused by the volatile nature of the research instrument itself. “

(Denscombe, M., 2007, p. 27)

To gather the most reliable information available, the author gathered information from sources such as Privacy International, the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Google itself. All other research data collected should be confirmed by authorities or approved institutes before writing the Project. To ensure of the reli- ability of all information, the author compared the results found by using triangu- lation and compared them with results already mentioned in other sources.

3.2 Research Families

Research families are qualitative and quantitative data as well as deskwork and fieldwork which can be drawn from the primary or secondary data.

3.2.1 Qualitative and Quantitative Data

” Qualitative research is concerned with collecting and analysing information an as many forms, chiefly non-numeric, as possible. ”

(Blaxter, L., 2006, p. 97)

Qualitative data are those which focus on the quality of a source and the data provided instead of providing a lot of information. These data were needed for an objective outcome of the Project because this Project involved numerousness opinions and criticism from many different sources such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the German Government. As qualitative data, the author quoted the laws, such as the European Data Protection Act of 12 July, 2002 and the United States Safe Harbor Act of July, 2000. Moreover, the researcher used the Google Privacy Policy website to gain information about their End User License Agreements in order to provide a good quality outcome.

“ Quantitative research is concerned with the collection and analysis of data in numeric form. It tends to emphasize relatively large-scale and representative sets of data. ”

(Blaxter, L., 2006, p. 102)

By quantitative data is meant the amount of information. These information can come from all sources and include statistics and opinions, but the emphasis is on quantity not on quality. The advantages of quantitative data are that the findings are easily analysed and evaluated by computers which allow conclusions that can be considered as a solid and objective research because of a large amount of available data. The disadvantage is that a large number of quantitative data is needed in order to be representative for an evaluation which could not be ac- complished because of the limitation of time.


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A critical analysis of Google's behavior towards its users in relation to the EU Data Protection Act and the US Safe Harbour Act
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Sven Elmers (Author), 2009, A critical analysis of Google's behavior towards its users in relation to the EU Data Protection Act and the US Safe Harbour Act, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/181275


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