Google’s new system raises fresh privacy concerns

The opposition of few member states to the digital tax is one of the main reasons argued by the Commission to propose the gradual introduction of qualified majority in tax issues. [:D/Flickr]

EXCLUSIVE / Germany’s data protection commissioner, Andrea Voßhoff, has urged caution when it comes to Google Home and Amazon Echo: the companies’ flagship voice command services. EURACTIV’s partner WirtschaftsWoche reports.

“As data protection commissioner, I view these intelligent voice command assistants, which ‘eavesdrop’ permanently with a microphone, quite critically,” Voßhoff told the publication. Above all, she voiced her concerns about the lack of transparency when it comes to how the information is collected and stored, as well as how it is used.

Google recently unveiled its new digital assistant at a developer conference. Google Home is a wireless speaker system that can allow the user to control what music is playing and the lighting of their home, as well as answering questions like what can already be done using a smart phone.

Google invokes free speech in French fine appeal

Google said Thursday (19 May) it feared for free speech if France succeeded in forcing it to apply the right to have information about a person removed from its search engines not just in France, but worldwide.

Google’s new offering is a reaction to the success of Amazon’s Echo system, which has so far sold 3 million units. American technology giant Apple is working on its own version.

The data privacy chief made it clear that people are free to make up their own minds and use such systems. “However, I would advise people to think carefully about such a decision,” Voßhoff warned and “to weigh up the gain in comfort provided by these systems against – at least theoretical – round-the-clock surveillance”.


Several EU politicians have called for technology companies to create backdoors to encrypted communication systems for law enforcement agencies. Calls for encryption backdoors were reignited after terrorist attacks in Paris last November.

Apple has been embroiled in a weeks-long battle over encryption with the US government after the FBI demanded access to encrypted data on an iPhone that belonged to a suspect in the shootings last December in San Bernardino, California. On 28 March, US authorities dropped a legal case against Apple after the FBI announced it was able to access the data on the iPhone.

MEPs battle to get their vote on Privacy Shield

Liberal and socialist groups in the European Parliament have tried since March to set up a plenary vote on the controversial Privacy Shield data transfer agreement to the United States. With member states' final verdict slated for next month, MEPs are running out of time to vote before the deal is finalised.


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