What you need to know
- Google is moving data of British users over to the U.S. post-Brexit.
- The firm wants to avoid dueling legislation around data protections now that the UK is no longer part of the EU.
- Critics argue that weaker data protection in the U.S. makes it easier for authorities and other entities to access user data.
Google will be moving the data of UK citizens over to the U.S. from Ireland, where it had previously stored them. The firm will soon require UK users to agree to new terms of conditions as well. The move came as a result of the UK's exit from the European Union at the end of January this year. With the country no longer in the bloc, it made sense for Google to move its user data to a "neutral" country rather than risk competing legislation over data protection.
In a statement to The Guardian, Google said:
Nothing about our services or our approach to privacy will change, including how we collect or process data, and how we respond to law enforcement demands for users' information. The protections of the UK GDPR will still apply to these users.
Those protections will only apply for as long as the UK stays wedded to the EU's GDPR. But the move has drawn criticism anyway. The U.S. has the CLOUD act, one that could make it easier for the UK government to obtain data from U.S based companies like Google.
With weaker U.S. data protections in general, Google's massive stores of UK user data may become a concern as they move out of the reach of the robust GDPR protections.
Jim Killock, the executive director of the digital rights organization Open Rights Group, told The Guardian:
Moving people's personal information to the USA makes it easier for mass surveillance programs to access it. There is nearly no privacy protection for non-US citizens. Google's decision should worry everyone who thinks tech companies are too powerful and know too much about us. The UK must commit to European data protection standards or we are likely to see our rights being swiftly undermined by 'anything goes' US privacy practices.
Both the UK's future legislation and the move to the U.S. are in flux however, so the only thing we can really do at this point is to wait and see.
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