Google Privacy ‘Red Team’ Formed To Avoid Future Gaffes

Google is seeking to recruit data experts for what it is calling a ‘privacy red team’, as the search engine giant looks to avoid any future privacy mishaps.

Google has been at the centre of privacy rows for a number of years now. Perhaps its most serious privacy blunder came in May 2010 when Google admitted its Street View cars had unwittingly collected personal information from citizens’ Wi-Fi networks. The so-called ‘WiSpy’ incident has dogged Google for years now, and in July it admitted it had still not deleted all the data it had collected, prompting fresh privacy watchdog investigations.

And earlier this month Google was issued with a stiff penalty of $22.5 million (£14m) for allegedly bypassing the privacy settings of Apple’s Safari browser. It agreed the fine with the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC), after it was accused of using code to bypass Apple Safari piracy settings that blocked user tracking cookies by default, violating an earlier privacy settlement with the FTC.

Red Team

In lights of these gaffes, Google has decided to tighten up the privacy control over its product portfolio. It revealed on Wednesday in a job advert it is recruiting data experts at its Mountain View, California headquarters to fill a new privacy division codenamed “red team”.

Google said it was seeking so-called “data privacy engineers” to locate and tackle any privacy issues regarding Google’s products.

“As a Data Privacy Engineer at Google you will help ensure that our products are designed to the highest standards and are operated in a manner that protects the privacy of our users,” reads the advert. “Specifically, you will work as member of our Privacy Red Team to independently identify, research, and help resolve potential privacy risks across all of our products, services, and business processes in place today.”

The concept of a “red team” has been used within the security industry for years now. Essentially a ‘red team’ refers to a small group of experts that actively hunt down and try to expose flaws, be it security or privacy vulnerabilities.

“Top candidates will have an intimate knowledge of the inner workings of modern web browsers and computer networks, enjoy analyzing software designs and implementations from both a privacy and security perspective, and will be recognised experts at discovering and prioritising subtle, unusual, and emergent security flaws,” the job advert stated.

The move by Google reflects the increasing influence of its products, which are used on a daily basis by many computer users.

Privacy Policies

Google already has strict privacy policies in place for most of its products. Earlier this year it caused fresh controversy when it revealed it was revising its various privacy policies and boiling them down to a single all-encompassing document.

That move didn’t sit well with privacy advocates, and its privacy policy changes are being investigated by European regulators. EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding for one believes that Google’s changes violate European data laws by failing to consult consumers making the changes.

Google evangelist Vint Cerf, one of the founding fathers of the Internet, said in March that he was “puzzled” by the outrage surrounding the company’s privacy policy changes. However, he did admit that the tech giant had not handled the presentation of the refreshed policy particularly well.

How about the Google privacy team? If you think you are a privacy guru try our quiz!

Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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