Google: We will never sell election information

New information at Google's disposal from its Google Election service has raised alarm bells amongst privacy rights groups.
Written by Liam Tung, Contributing Writer on

New information at Google's disposal from its Google Election service has raised alarm bells amongst privacy rights groups.

Google Australia spokesperson Rob Shilkin said, "There's no risk of this information being provided to any third party whatsoever."

He said Google would not provide information to political parties that was not already publicly available using the service.

However he admitted privacy was a real challenge for Internet companies. "It's an issue that we address by giving clear notice for people that do use Google. When information is collected about them, it is done with their consent. For those details there is a privacy notice."

Shilkin said Google is very good at safeguarding information and ensuring privacy standards are adhered to.

However, Minister for Workplace Relations, Joe Hockey said he would buy the information if he could afford it.

"I don't have the money to buy it," he told ZDNet Australia. "But it would be interesting to see the profile of people who are accessing that information or using it and what information they're particularly interested in certain age profiles."

David Vaile, executive director of the Cyberspace Law and Policy Centre at UNSW said by launching this service, Google has created a "dramatic tension" between its commercial interests and promise to consumers.

"Google is promising to work against its commercial interests on ethical grounds or its promise to people, but it does set up a dramatic tension. Our capacity to enforce [Google], to hold them to their promises, is fairly limited," said Vaile.

"On the one hand, they don't seem to be profoundly unethical but they're creating a honey pot of valuable information, which will be increasingly tempting to exploit. This can change with a change of management, direction or company policy."

Vaile said an added temptation to delve into Google's data, from the politician's perspective, is that politicians are exempt from many, if not all, protections in privacy legislation and the Spam Act. However, he said, "They understand from the Australian Law Reform Commission's [ALRC] review that they will recommend all exemptions be removed."

The ALRC proposed in a recent discussion paper to remove current exemptions that apply to politicians in relation to the Privacy and Spam Acts.

Joe Hockey said he would not support any changes to politician's exemption from existing privacy legislation because political campaigns are not geared toward revenue making.

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