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StatementDate
Google response to OAIC 10 April 2013
Correspondence about Google Play 22 March 2013
OAIC letter to Google 27 February 2013

Google response to OAIC

10 April 2013

Google Australia Pty Ltd
Level 5, 48 Pirrama Road
Pyrmont NSW 2009

Tel: 02 9374-4000
Fax: 02 9374-4001
www.google.com.au

Timothy Pilgrim
Australian Privacy Commissioner
GPO Box 5218
Sydney

By email: [email address redacted]

Dear Mr. Pilgrim,

Purchasing Apps on Google Play through Google Wallet

Thank you for your letter of 27 February 2013 about purchasing Apps on Google Play through Google Wallet. This letter provides an update based on input provided by Google Inc, following our meeting with your Office on 4 April 2013.

Protecting users’ privacy is important to us. We are always looking for ways to better explain our practices to users (buyers and merchants alike), which may include giving users a better understanding of how the online payments ecosystem works.

Since 2006, we have disclosed in the Google Wallet Privacy Notice[1] that we may share users’ information with third parties as necessary to process users’ transactions and maintain their accounts. In that vein, we may share name, email address, address information, country and phone number with App Developers.

Google Play Developers are required to agree to the Play Developer Distribution Agreement[2] and the Sellers Terms of Service[3], which require them to protect the privacy and confidentiality of users’ information. Our Program Policies and Guidelines[4] also provide strict instructions on communicating with users and prohibit selling or renting users’ information or sending marketing emails to users without consent.

Although we believe our disclosures are clear, on an ongoing basis we gather feedback from users and Developers about our payments products and consider making improvements based on that feedback.

At present, we are considering updating the Wallet Australian Product Disclosure Form, the Play Terms of Service and the Wallet Privacy Notice based on this feedback and in ways that we believe will address the issues raised in your letter. We will continue to discuss our progress with your Office.

Yours sincerely,

[signature redacted]

Iarla Flynn
Head of Public Policy & Government Affairs
Google Australia & New Zealand


Footnotes

[1] http://wallet.google.com/files/privacy.html.

[2] see Section 4.3, https://play.google.com/about/developer-distribution-agreement.html.

[3] See Section 7.1, https://wallet.google.com/customer/tos/viewdocument.html?family=0.sellertos&gl=au.

[4] https://checkout.google.com/seller/policies.html.

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Correspondence about Google Play

22 March 2013

On 27 February 2013, the Australian Privacy Commissioner wrote to Google about the disclosure of personal information to sellers and providers by Google Play. The Commissioner set out his concerns about the disclosure and made recommendations for improved privacy practices. Google has advised that it is actively considering the Commissioner’s letter, and has undertaken to respond before the end of March 2013.

Update: On 10 April 2013, the OAIC received a written response from Google.

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OAIC letter to Google

27 February 2013, by emailed letter

Our reference: 12/000215

Mr Iarla Flynn
Head of Public Policy and Government Affairs Australia and New Zealand
Google Inc.
5/48 Pirrawa Rd
PYRMONT NSW 2009

By email: [redacted]

Dear Mr Flynn

Disclosure of personal information to sellers and providers by Google Play

Thank you for providing a briefing to the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner about the disclosure of personal information of individuals who purchase apps and other products in Google Play to the product sellers/providers.

The OAIC has reviewed the material that Google provides to its users about how their information is managed, including:

  • Google Privacy Policy[1]
  • Google Play Terms of Service[2]
  • Google Wallet Terms of Service[3]
  • Google Wallet Product Disclosure Statement,[4] and
  • Google Wallet Privacy Notice.[5]

The OAIC considers that there is a need for Google to more clearly and consistently explain how it manages personal information across its suite of policy and disclosure documents. In particular, Google could increase transparency and reduce user confusion by:

  • clarifying the purpose of Google Wallet
  • clarifying the Google Play Terms of Service and Google Wallet Privacy Notice to state that personal information will be disclosed to product providers.

Purpose of Google Wallet

The Google Play Terms of Service state that a Google Wallet account is needed to purchase products on Google Play.[6]

The Google Wallet Product Disclosure Statement states that:

Establishing a Buyers Account will allow Google Australia to:

…2.b. process payment transactions on behalf of a Buyer, avoiding the need for a Seller to have access to your personal and financial details …[emphasis added].[7]

This language suggests that personal and financial information is not disclosed to product sellers/providers. However, Google has informed the OAIC that when a purchase is made on Google Play, personal information about the purchaser is in fact disclosed to the product seller/provider.

To enable users to provide meaningful consent to the disclosure of their personal information to a third party, it is essential that it is clear to users when and what information will be disclosed. Information provided in the Google Wallet Terms of Services should accurately reflect the practices of Google.

Sharing of personal information with third parties

The Google Play Terms of Service states:

Google may need to provide your personal information, such as your name and email address, to Providers for the purposes of processing your transactions and/or provisioning Products to you. Google has agreed with Providers that they will use this information in accordance with the privacy policies [emphasis added].[8]

The Google Wallet Privacy Notice states:

We will only share your personal information with other companies or individuals outside of Google in the following circumstances: …As necessary to process your transaction and maintain your account… [emphasis added].[9]

The use of the terms ‘may’ and ‘as necessary’ suggests that the sharing of information is not a standard practice.

It would be better privacy practice if it were made explicit in the Google Play Terms of Service that when a purchase is made in Google Play certain information about the purchaser is routinely disclosed to product providers. For example, when a magazine subscription is purchased through Google Play, the Google Play Terms of Service more clearly state what personal information is disclosed:

If you purchase a subscription of any length on Magazines on Google Play, Google will share your name, email address, mailing address and a unique identifier with the magazine's publisher. Google has agreed with the magazine publisher that it will use this information in accordance with the magazine publishers privacy policy. You will be provided the opportunity to opt out of any communications from the publisher that do not relate to the subscription you are purchasing, and to opt out of marketing communications from third parties, at the time you purchase your subscription. If you purchase a single issue on Magazines on Google Play, Google may provide your postal code to the magazine's publisher. We also provide magazine publishers with sales information on magazine purchases.[10]

As has been done with respect to magazine subscriptions, it would highly desirable for the Google Play Terms of Service to clearly state to users what specific information is disclosed to product providers when other purchases are made through Google Play.

Conclusion

The current drafting of the Google Wallet Terms of Service, Google Wallet Privacy Policy and Google Play Terms of Service may be confusing to users, and would benefit from amendments to improve clarity and consistency.

I recommend that Google take this opportunity to clarify the flow of information between Google, purchasers and product providers in Google Play.

I look forward to hearing how Google will address the issues that we have identified in the Google Wallet Terms of Service, Google Wallet Privacy Policy and Google Play Terms of Service.

Consistent with the OAIC’s usual practices, this letter will be published on our website. Google’s response, if any, will be published on receipt.

If you have any questions, please contact [redacted].

Yours sincerely

[signed]

Timothy Pilgrim
Australian Privacy Commissioner

27 February 2013


Footnotes

[1] Google, Privacy Policy, 27 July 2012, Google website http://www.google.com.au/policies/privacy/.

[2] Google, Google Play Terms of Service viewed 19 February 2013, Google website http://play.google.com/intl/en_us/about/play-terms.html.

[3] Google, Google Wallet Terms of Service, 23 October 2012, Google website https://wallet.google.com/termsOfService?type=BUYER&gl=US. The URL of this document suggests that it is directed to US users, but is also provided to Australian users.

[4] Google, Google Wallet Product Disclosure Statement, 28 September 2001, Google website https://checkout.google.com/termsOfService?type=Buyer&pli=1.

[5] Google, Google Wallet Privacy Notice, 1 August 2012, Google website http://wallet.google.com/files/privacy.html.

[6] Google, Google Play Terms of Service viewed 19 February 2013, Google website http://play.google.com/intl/en_us/about/play-terms.html, cl 2.

[7] Google, Google Wallet Product Disclosure Statement, 28 September 2001, Google website https://checkout.google.com/termsOfService?type=Buyer&pli=1, cl 5.2.3.

[8] Google, Google Play Terms of Service viewed 19 February 2013, Google website, https://play.google.com/intl/en_au/about/play-terms.html, cl 3

[9] Google, Google Wallet Privacy Notice, 1 August 2012, Google website http://wallet.google.com/files/privacy.html.

[10] Google, Google Play Terms of Service viewed 19 February 2013, Google website http://play.google.com/intl/en_us/about/play-terms.html, cl 10. However, this text could still benefit from clarification; in the second sentence, it is unclear whether the word ‘it’ refers to Google or the magazine publisher.

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