Feeds

Privacy International accuses Google of smear campaign

Bottom for privacy, but top for smearing

Remote control for virtualized desktops

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. ®

Remote control for virtualized desktops

More from The Register

next story
Facebook pays INFINITELY MORE UK corp tax than in 2012
Thanks for the £3k, Zuck. Doh! you're IN CREDIT. Guess not
Big Content outs piracy hotbeds: São Paulo, Beijing ... TORONTO?
MPAA calls Canadians a bunch of bootlegging movie thieves
Google Glassholes are UNDATEABLE – HP exec
You need an emotional connection, says touchy-feely MD... We can do that
Just don't blame Bono! Apple iTunes music sales PLUMMET
Cupertino revenue hit by cheapo downloads, says report
US court SHUTS DOWN 'scammers posing as Microsoft, Facebook support staff'
Netizens allegedly duped into paying for bogus tech advice
Feds seek potential 'second Snowden' gov doc leaker – report
Hang on, Ed wasn't here when we compiled THIS document
Verizon bankrolls tech news site, bans tech's biggest stories
No agenda here. Just don't ever mention Net neutrality or spying, ok?
prev story

Whitepapers

Choosing cloud Backup services
Demystify how you can address your data protection needs in your small- to medium-sized business and select the best online backup service to meet your needs.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
New hybrid storage solutions
Tackling data challenges through emerging hybrid storage solutions that enable optimum database performance whilst managing costs and increasingly large data stores.
Beginner's guide to SSL certificates
De-mystify the technology involved and give you the information you need to make the best decision when considering your online security options.