Google is promising to monitor its employees more closely to make sure they don’t intrude on people’s privacy while the company collects and stores information about its users.

The tougher privacy measures announced Friday appear to be in reaction to recent breaches that have raised questions about the Internet search leader’s internal controls and policies.

The three steps as outlined by Google’s Alan Eustace, senior vice president for engineering and researching:

  • "First, people: we have appointed Alma Whitten as our director of privacy across both engineering and product management. Her focus will be to ensure that we build effective privacy controls into our products and internal practices. Alma is an internationally recognized expert in the computer science field of privacy and security. She has been our engineering lead on privacy for the last two years, and we will significantly increase the number of engineers and product managers working with her in this new role."
  • "Second, training: All our employees already receive orientation training on Google’s privacy principles and are required to sign Google’s Code of Conduct, which includes sections on privacy and the protection of user data. However, to ensure we do an even better job, we’re enhancing our core training for engineers and other important groups (such as product management and legal) with a particular focus on the responsible collection, use and handling of data. In addition, starting in December, all our employees will also be required to undertake a new information security awareness program, which will include clear guidance on both security and privacy."
  • "Third, compliance: While we’ve made important changes to our internal compliance procedures in the last few years, we need to make further changes to reflect the fact that we are now a larger company. So we’re adding a new process to our existing review system, in which every engineering project leader will be required to maintain a privacy design document for each initiative they are working on. This document will record how user data is handled and will be reviewed regularly by managers, as well as by an independent internal audit team."

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In May, Google Inc. acknowledged that one of its engineers set up a system that scooped up people’s e-mails and passwords transmitted over unsecured wireless networks while the company’s cars drove around neighborhoods throughout the world. Last month, the company acknowledged firing another engineer who spied on the Google accounts of four minors.

As part of its crackdown, Google will require all 23,000 of its employees to undergo privacy training and impose stricter compliance standards.

"We believe these changes will significantly improve our internal practices (though no system can of course entirely eliminate human error), and we look forward to seeing the innovative new security and privacy features that Alma and her team develop," Eustace wrote.

"That said, we’ll be constantly on the lookout for additional improvements to our procedures as Google grows, and as we branch out into new fields of computer science."

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