Privacy International Slams Google Over Privacy Practices

Jun 11, 2007 • 7:42 am | comments (9) by twitter Google+ | Filed Under Google Search Engine

Privacy International released a report this weekend rating Google at the bottom of bottom, in terms of their privacy practices. They even published an open letter to Google over their practices calling for "an apology" for calling this report "a conflict of interest regarding Microsoft."

As one might imagine, with Google's popularity, this news did not wait for the weekend to break before articles started coming out. Every headline I was tracking for Google was about this report. The coverage is overwhelming, but let's have Techmeme help sort it out. Danny Sullivan took a different approach, after carefully analyzing the report he wrote Google Bad On Privacy? Maybe It's Privacy International's Report That Sucks calling for:

Overall, looking at just the performance of the best companies PI found shows that Google measures up well -- and thus ranking it the worse simply doesn't seem fair. But the bigger issue is that the report itself doesn't appear to be as comprehensive or fully researched as it is billed.

Frankly, about the only thing saving Privacy International from many more companies or services being upset over this report is that they singled out Google as the worse. That's almost guaranteed to make players like Microsoft and Yahoo shut their mouths and point at this silently as vindication they aren't so bad.

On that, Matt Cutts of Google wrote his own piece named Why I disagree with Privacy International. He said, "I personally feel strongly about protecting our users’ privacy. So I’m frustrated by a recent study that Privacy International did, and I want to know if I’m off-base in my reaction." Adding;

I think Privacy International should feel remorse about walking right past several other companies to single out Google for their lowest rating. But I think that there’s a larger danger here too. I believe this report could corrode earnest efforts to improve privacy at companies around the internet. Why? Because the bottom-line takeaway message that I got from the report is that a company can work hard on privacy issues and still get dragged into the mud. Consider: in the last year or so, other companies gave users’ queries to the government, leaked millions of raw user queries, or even sold user queries and still came off better than Google did.

The Techmeme coverage on the opposition to the report can be found here.

Now, let's take it to the forums.

WebmasterWorld and DigitalPoint Forums have larger threads on the topic. Here are some select quotes from members of those respective forums.

I assume any information I give google will be used to find profit. One area that really irks me on is Adwords. I assume that by using their "free" Analytics and ROI calculator that know exactly what my price tolerance is and will start to increase my costs per click seperate from my competitor, with this in mind.

What Google does with the data is less important than what governments can force Google to do with the data. Google's good intentions don't matter. Their policies - which may permit the data to fall into truly evil hands - ARE what matters.

This report is just plain BS

It is sad really, because I really believed that Google was fundamentally different

For some reason, I don't think this is the last we hear about this. I suspect Google will come out hard against this report. I suspect the debate to linger on for a couple weeks and then die down and no one will remember it until a new report is released.

Forum discussion at WebmasterWorld, DigitalPoint Forums and Cre8asite Forums.

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