Google chairman Schmidt makes privacy pledge

Eric Schmidt

Google will make some significant improvements in privacy to ensure users know where their data is going, Eric Schmidt said yesterday.

The internet giant's chairman told delegates at the UK Big Tent conference that Google would simplify the way in which Android users shared their information.

Schmidt insisted Google took privacy "very seriously," claiming the company was working on "a series of projects" designed to increase transparency, the BBC reported.

Users are responsible for their data and should be able to choose how it is used, he added.

"In general we take the position that you own your data and should be able to opt in or out of a service," Schmidt said.

"If you choose to give us that information, we can do a better job. If we know a little bit more about you, we can offer better targeted search."

EU to enforce stricter rules?

Google and others involved in the smartphone space could face tighter laws in Europe when it comes to location data.

An EU data protection advisory panel ruled yesterday location information collected by mobile devices should be treated as personal data.

This could mean stricter limits will be imposed on how the likes of Google and Apple use customer data. The tech firms have argued location information helps provide valued services to customers.

"Movements of citizens should not be tracked without their explicit consent. Storing location data may lead to betraying the location of users," Viviane Reding, vice president of the European Commission, said on Wednesday.

"Service providers on internet and smartphones or car navigation systems providers should be fully aware of their responsibilities."

Apple was criticised by privacy groups last month when it emerged location data was being stored on files within iPhones. Following this, the company moved to limit the amount of data being stored on the devices.

Android phones were also discovered to be storing location data and sending it to Google.

Google and Apple were subsequently questioned in the US Senate on the storage of such information on handsets. Google and Apple executives are due to appear before the Senate to answer questions on mobile privacy again today.

Google yesterday confirmed it was sending out an automatic fix for an issue in Android which could have leaked data of customers using apps over unprotected Wi-Fi networks.

Tom Brewster

Tom Brewster is currently an associate editor at Forbes and an award-winning journalist who covers cyber security, surveillance, and privacy. Starting his career at ITPro as a staff writer and working up to a senior staff writer role, Tom has been covering the tech industry for more than ten years and is considered one of the leading journalists in his specialism.

He is a proud alum of the University of Sheffield where he secured an undergraduate degree in English Literature before undertaking a certification from General Assembly in web development.