Privacy International issued a report A Race to the Bottom: Privacy Ranking of Internet Service Companies following a six month investigation on the privacy practices of key Internet-based companies. The companies rated range from email providers, search engines, e-commerce and social networking sites, and were rated from best to worst performers.
Google was the only company rated Hostile to Privacy. No company received the top rating – Privacy-friendly and privacy enhancing. The report went so far as to say that that while a number of companies share some of these negative aspects, only Google comes close to achieving status as an endemic threat to privacy.
While the Consultation Report: Race to the Bottom? 2007 does note the following positive actions performed by Google:
Rejected access to data by U.S. Justice Department for research purposes. Member of Safe Harbor.
The report justifies the rating as follows:
Track history of ignoring privacy concerns. Every corporate announcement involves some new practice involving surveillance. Privacy officer tries to reach out but no indication that this has any effect on product and service design or delivery.
Privacy International’s report is starting to gather media coverage –
- cnet News Blog – Watchdog group flunks Google on privacy practices
- Yahoo News (AP Wire) – Watchdog group slams Google on privacy
Blogs have also been addressing privacy concerns with mixed reaction:
- Robert Scoble at Scobleizer – Google getting held to higher privacy standard that Microsoft or Amazon
- James Moody at Geek In Paradise – The Google Street Maps Fiasco
Privacy International is accusing Google of conducting a smear campaign. From Privacy International’s website:
Google accused of conducting smear campaign against Privacy International
As Privacy International prepares to publish the first privacy ranking of major Internet companies, Google has embarked on a smear campaign within the media to discredit both PI and the report. The report ranks the privacy performance of the top Internet service companies. Privacy International will then publish a detailed open letter to Google and a demand for an apology.
I was unable to find evidence of this smear campaign, but that does not mean it does not exist.
I am not familiar with the whole story between Google and Privacy International. Privacy International states they tried to contact Google and received no response, Google states they wanted to speak to Privacy International to address issues asserted in the report prior to its release.
One of the mottos in my group is – Trust but verify. This is the kind of report that I will trust, but I will definitely verify to ensure I come to my own conclusions.