Back Up Your Gmail: Google Threatens to End E-Mail Service in Germany
If a proposed German surveillance law goes into effect unchanged in 2008, Google says, it would shut down Gmail for German customers rather than comply.
Google vs. European governments: a power struggle over private data.
Google, though, offers anonymous e-mail accounts. It takes first and last names for its Gmail service, but those can be faked; and it doesn't require a valid snail-mail address. "Many users around the globe make use of this anonymity to defend themselves from spam, or government repression of free speech," said Peter Fleischer, Google's Global Privacy Counsel, to the German business magazine Wirtschaftswoche. "If the Web community won't trust us with handling their data with great care, we'll go down in no time." As an emergency measure, he said -- rather than change the product -- "we would shut off Google Mail in Germany."
Google itself has not been a consistent champion of private data, however. In mid-June a British human-rights group called Privacy International published security rankings of major Internet companies including Amazon, Apple, BBC, Ebay, Microsoft, Myspace, Skype, Wikipedia, and Yahoo. Google turned up at the bottom. Privacy International praised Google for not handing over "piles of data to the US government," but had filed a complaint with privacy regulators in 2004 over Google's policy of scanning customers' E-mail to sell semi-personalized advertising.
In May, Google offered to comply with European Union privacy rules by cutting the length of time it keeps personal data on its users' searches by 25 percent. Google said it would anonymize that information after 18 months, instead of 24.
Stay informed with our free news services:
© SPIEGEL ONLINE 2007
All Rights Reserved
Reproduction only allowed with the permission of SPIEGELnet GmbH
MORE FROM SPIEGEL INTERNATIONAL
German PoliticsMerkel's Moves: Power Struggles in Berlin
World War IITruth and Reconciliation: Why the War Still Haunts Europe
EnergyGreen Power: The Future of Energy
European UnionUnited Europe: A Continental Project
Climate ChangeGlobal Warming: Curbing Carbon Before It's Too Late