Google to move UK citizens’ data to US, putting it under control of Trump government

Critics argue change will make it easier for users to be subject to surveillance

This picture taken on November 5, 2018 shows a woman passing a booth of Google at the first China International Import Expo (CIIE) in Shanghai
This picture taken on November 5, 2018 shows a woman passing a booth of Google at the first China International Import Expo (CIIE) in Shanghai

Google is transferring UK users' data to the US, the company has said.

The decision comes in the wake of Brexit, as users in Britain are no longer covered by the data protections by provided by the EU.

It means that users will instead have their data stored in the US, potentially putting it under control of the Trump govenment.

Privacy activists criticised the decision, arguing that it would make people's data less safe and allow for easier mass surveillance.

But Google claimed the change would not see any changes in data protection standards, and that they would be subject to the same restrictions as under GDPR, the European data protection regulation.

“Like many companies, we have to prepare for Brexit," a Google spokesperson 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."

In practise, the move will mean that UK users will have their data controlled by Google LLC, instead of Google Ireland, as it was before the UK left the European Union.

Critics and privacy activists argued that the move would leave users less protected than they are under the old European regulations.

“Moving people's personal information to the USA makes it easier for mass surveillance programmes to access it," said Jim Killock, executive director of Open Rights Group. "There is nearly no privacy protection for non-US citizens.

"We have no reason to trust a Donald Trump government with information about UK citizens. The possibilities for abuse are enormous, from US immigration programmes through to attempts to politically and racially profile people for alleged extremist links.

"Data protection rights will also become more fragile, and are likely to be attacked in trade agreements pushing 'data flows'.

"Google's decision should worry everyone who think 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."

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