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Google Privacy Chief Alma Whitten Steps Down

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Google's privacy director will step down after three years in the job, the search giant has announced.

London-based Alma Whitten took the job in 2010 after a series of high-profile security and privacy complaints rocked the company.

Those mistakes included the launch of Google Buzz, an ill-fated social network to which Gmail users were automatically signed up and connected with the people they emailed most often. The launch eventually led to an $8.5 million class action settlement.

Google was also fined after it collected personal data including emails and passwords from unprotected WiFi networks via its Street View vehicles, again without permission.

Described as the "hardest job at Google" by Cnet, Whitten's role was to oversee products which may have privacy implications before they were released.

Now she is stepping down, whereupon it is thought she will retire.

"During her 10 years at Google, Alma has done so much to improve our products and protect our users," Google said in a statement.

"The privacy and security teams, and everyone else at Google, will continue this hard work to ensure that our users' data is kept safe and secure."

Long-term Googler Lawrence You, based at Mountain View in California, will take over the role, managing a team of privacy and security employees that now numbers in the hundreds, according to the BBC.

You's title will be "director of privacy for product and engineering".

But You's focus will remain on the company's privacy policies and liability, and not the overall protection of user data.