Privacy news: Snapchat apology, Google and Europe, NSA spying reports’ effects

We have quick bites of privacy news on today’s menu:

• Snapchat has apologized for the Dec. 31 breach of the data of 4.6 million users. As Steve Johnson and Dan Nakaso reported, the exposed users’ names and part of their phone numbers could be combined with other available information to wreak some serious havoc. The initial response of the 2-year-old Southern California startup, which offers users a way to exchange short-lived photos and messages, was criticized by some for its lack of an overt apology. But the company, which today released an update to its app, has now provided one. “We are sorry for any problems this issue may have caused you and we really appreciate your patience and support,” it said on its blog. The update “improves Find Friends functionality” — the source of the exploit — and allows users to opt out of linking their usernames with their phone numbers.

• Next stop, Europe: Google is facing a fine in France over the company’s umbrella privacy policy, which applies to all the online services it offers. The Wall Street Journal points to a similar fine imposed by Spain last month, and says such issues could affect trade relations between the United States and the European Union. The recent reports about NSA spying — some of which is enabled by U.S. companies’ technology — don’t help things, either.

Meanwhile, Google’s global privacy counsel Peter Fleischer wrote in a blog post Wednesday that the EU’s attempt to update (and strengthen) its data-protection laws is dead. He said he hoped a new draft would be more “balanced.” Philipp Albrecht, a German Green Party politician, called it “another try of Fleischer to kill the data-protection regulation by calling it dead,” according to Bloomberg. He said that Google has fought “every regulation” by spending big on lobbyists in the United States and Brussels.

• Speaking of NSA spying, plus of Europe and U.S. companies: A Canadian cloud provider with a presence in the United States says its survey of 300 businesses in Canada and the U.K. found that 25 percent wanted to transfer their companies’ data out of the United States, where they could be required to turn over data to the government. But GigaOm questions how effective the moving of data would be, given the close ties among the U.S., Canada and the U.K.


Screenshot from Snapchat


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  • erica

    it seems like some group is always letting us down with our privacy…..Are they half assing their security? I get enough harassing calls. The last thing I need is my phone number getting out because my friends have me on their snapchat list. I’ve started taking action to protect my privacy using free tools provided by my new favorite is their mask me card. Now I can buy things online safely with my debit card without the companies knowing the number. It’s masked behind a secured card.