Google's privacy chief, Alma Whitten, is stepping down the Internet giant confirmed Monday. Since word of her departure came out on April Fools' Day many folks probably thought this was part of the company's annual elaborate pranks like its "announcement" of a new service called "Google Nose."
I mean how many of you actually thought Google even had a privacy chief?
Whitten, an engineer based in London (now that's a location convenient to its Mountain View Headquarters) took the position in 2010 about six months after the Wi-Spy scandal was uncovered and as Google was reaching a consent agreement with the Federal Trade Commission for invading users' privacy when it launched the ill-fated Buzz social network.
Well, about all that happened on Whitten's watch was that Google became a confirmed serial privacy violator. No sooner was the ink dry on the Buzz Consent Decree with the FTC, than Google was caught hacking around privacy settings on Apple's Safari browser, which is on iPads and iPhones, and lying about its practices on the Google website. Google was fined $22.5 million by the FTC, pocket change to the Internet giant.
Also on Whitten's watch Google was fined $25,000 for obstructing the Federal Communications Commission's investigation of Wi-Spy and just settled for a paltry $7 million with 38 states attorney general who were investigating. They've also got to make a YouTube video telling people how to improve Wi-Fi network security and have a Privacy Day for employees. That's like asking the fox teach the chickens about how to make the coop safe.
It was also on Whitten's watch that Google combined its privacy and data collection policies across its services without asking users' consent first. European data protection officials led by the French are still investigating and action is likely this spring.
Whitten intends to stay on the job through June -- not that it makes much difference to users -- until her successor Lawrence You takes over.
I guess it makes sense a certain amount of sense that this got announced on April Fools' Day. Privacy at Google is a joke. Google's executives view the taps on the wrist the Internet giant has received for privacy violations as nothing more than the cost of doing business.