Google and Facebook are violating your privacy -- again

An analyst has proposed a simple fix for Google's and Facebook's privacy policies -- so why haven't the tech titans acted on it?

Those of us who've obtained a certain age remember the old programmers' epigram: Garbage in, garbage out. Now that the technology industry is playing with an idea of using manure to power servers, the recent actions of Google and Facebook have put a whole new twist on that motto -- manure in, manure out is more like it.

Google, the search giant, is feeding manure to regulators in Germany and to users who have trouble believing that it's possible to inadvertently collected personal data for years under the guise of taking photos for street maps and never notice it.

[ Also on InfoWorld: It was revealed this month that new Facebook features secretly add apps to your profile. | Do you agree with Robert X. Cringely that Facebook wants to control the Web, like it or not? | Keep up on the day's tech news headlines with InfoWorld's Today's Headlines: First Look newsletter. ]

To be fair, Google isn't the only big tech company behaving really, really badly this month: Facebook continues to amaze as it offers weak apology after weak apology for yet another violation of user's privacy and insults to everyone's intelligence.

Let's just say that May's Bozo of the Month award will be held jointly by Google's Eric Schmidt and Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg.

Germany to Google: Hand over your hard drives
Unlike their counterparts in the United States, German regulators don't take any of this nonsense. Earlier this week, they gave Google until May 26 to surrender one of the hard drives that has been used to collect data for a German version of Street View or face legal action.

While Google says it is willing to destroy the data, it has so far not complied with the request, and that's not good enough for German privacy officials. "Up until now, all we have to go on at this point is what Google has told us that they have collected. But until we can inspect one of the hard drives ourselves, we will not know to what extent what kinds of data have actually been stored," German regulator Johannes Caspar told the New York Times.

In case you missed it: Google revealed Friday that its Street View cars, in addition to snapping photos of the world's roadways, have also been collecting sensitive personal information from unencrypted wireless networks. Google had maintained that its fleet of cars was just snapping pictures of streets and collecting SSID info and MAC addresses to be use for location services. The company claims a programming error caused the cars to also collect snippets of data broadcast by unprotected home networks.

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