Feeds

Privacy International accuses Google of smear campaign

Bottom for privacy, but top for smearing

SANS - Survey on application security programs

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
Putin tells Snowden: Russia conducts no US-style mass surveillance
Gov't is too broke for that, Russian prez says
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
Lavabit loses contempt of court appeal over protecting Snowden, customers
Judges rule complaints about government power are too little, too late
MtGox chief Karpelès refuses to come to US for g-men's grilling
Bitcoin baron says he needs another lawyer for FinCEN chat
Don't let no-hire pact suit witnesses call Steve Jobs a bullyboy, plead Apple and Google
'Irrelevant' character evidence should be excluded – lawyers
Edward Snowden on his Putin TV appearance: 'Why all the criticism?'
Denies Q&A cameo was meant to slam US, big-up Russia
Record labels sue Pandora over vintage song royalties
Companies want payout on recordings made before 1972
EFF: Feds plan to put 52 MILLION FACES into recognition database
System would identify faces as part of biometrics collection
Ex-Tony Blair adviser is new top boss at UK spy-hive GCHQ
Robert Hannigan to replace Sir Iain Lobban in the autumn
Judge halts spread of zombie Nortel patents to Texas in Google trial
Epic Rockstar patent war to be waged in California
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.
3 Big data security analytics techniques
Applying these Big Data security analytics techniques can help you make your business safer by detecting attacks early, before significant damage is done.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Top three mobile application threats
Learn about three of the top mobile application security threats facing businesses today and recommendations on how to mitigate the risk.
Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.