Feeds

Privacy International accuses Google of smear campaign

Bottom for privacy, but top for smearing

High performance access to file storage

Privacy International's (PI) research into privacy practises at internet service companies put Google in last place.

However, the search giant hit back by briefing journalists that PI was in the pocket of Microsoft.

The figures are a preliminary view, with the full research due to be released in September.

Results are colour-coded from green, "privacy-friendly and privacy enhancing", to black, which describes companies as having "comprehensive consumer surveillance and entrenched hostility to privacy". Only Google acheived the black ranking.

Also on the list was Microsoft, which was accused of "serious lapses" around Windows Genuine Advantage and Passport. AOL, Apple, Facebook, Hi5, and Reunion.com were all labelled red, posing a "substantial threat" to users' privacy. Other companies on the list include eBay, Friendster, LiveJournal, MySpace, Orkut, Skype, and Wikipedia.

Much of the criticism of Google centred on its lack of transparency - PI described its data retention policy as "unclear" and its privacy policy as "vague, incomplete and possibly deceptive".

A blog from one Google staffer noted that the search giant was not credited for refusing to hand over user data to the US government, that it didn't leak users' search queries like AOL had, and that it now promises to anonymise search queries after 18 months.

The row might have disappeared over the weekend, but Privacy International claimed Google was besmirching its good name.

In an open letter to Google's CEO Eric Schmidt, Privacy International accused the search giant of launching a smear campaign. PI said: "Two European journalists have independently told us that Google representatives have contacted them with the claim that 'Privacy International has a conflict of interest regarding Microsoft'."

The letter said no company had made a similar accusation in the 17 years Privacy International has existed.

The letter accuses Google of naming a member of PI's 70 strong advisory panel as a Microsoft employee. Simon Davies, of PI, said the person in question had worked for PI for six years and was described as "an exceptionally skilled IT and security expert".

Furthermore, the letter said: "He is a decent, skilled, and honourable man who upon his appointment with Microsoft offered us his resignation. We refused to accept it, and he continues to serve on the board in a private capacity."

The letter ends: "I believe an apology from you is in order, but if you cannot deliver this then I think you should reflect carefully on the actions of your representatives before embarking on what I believe amounts to a smear campaign. As with Microsoft, eBay and any other organisation we are more than happy to work with you to help resolve the many privacy challenges for Google that our report has highlighted."

Privacy International looked at 23 companies and measured 20 parameters, such as whether a company had a privacy department, what kinds of information it collects, and how data is retained.

Privacy International's Privacy Rankings are here. The Google staffer blog is here, and Simon Davies' letter to Eric Schmidt is here. ®

High performance access to file storage

More from The Register

next story
Android engineer: We DIDN'T copy Apple OR follow Samsung's orders
Veep testifies for Samsung during Apple patent trial
MtGox chief Karpelès refuses to come to US for g-men's grilling
Bitcoin baron says he needs another lawyer for FinCEN chat
Did a date calculation bug just cost hard-up Co-op Bank £110m?
And just when Brit banking org needs £400m to stay afloat
One year on: diplomatic fail as Chinese APT gangs get back to work
Mandiant says past 12 months shows Beijing won't call off its hackers
German space centre endures cyber attack
Chinese code retrieved but NSA hack not ruled out
EFF: Feds plan to put 52 MILLION FACES into recognition database
System would identify faces as part of biometrics collection
Big Content goes after Kim Dotcom
Six studios sling sueballs at dead download destination
Ex-Tony Blair adviser is new top boss at UK spy-hive GCHQ
Robert Hannigan to replace Sir Iain Lobban in the autumn
Alphadex fires back at British Gas with overcharging allegation
Brit colo outfit says it paid for 347KVA, has been charged for 1940KVA
Jack the RIPA: Blighty cops ignore law, retain innocents' comms data
Prime minister: Nothing to see here, go about your business
prev story

Whitepapers

Securing web applications made simple and scalable
In this whitepaper learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
HP ArcSight ESM solution helps Finansbank
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Mobile application security study
Download this report to see the alarming realities regarding the sheer number of applications vulnerable to attack, as well as the most common and easily addressable vulnerability errors.