Human rights group and surveillance watchdog Privacy International has just released an interim report on the privacy practices of over 20 leading web companies, and the results don’t look good for colourful, cuddly Google.
The big G was the only one in the group that included companies such as Microsoft, AOL, MySpace and eBay to be placed in the bottom section of the six stage colour coded scale and labelled hostile to privacy.
Just a day after the results were published, just to show how well the verdict was going down, Google representatives apparently tried to start a smear campaign against Privacy International, claiming it has “a conflict of interest regarding Microsoft”. This information was sent to two European journalists by Google representatives, according to the privacy group. Shortly afterwards, employees from major internet firms were seen forming a circle around both companies and shouting: “Fight, fight, fight…”
Google apparently scored nul points due to the diversity of its product range, its ability to share data between products, its market dominance and huge user base. “Google’s increasing ability to deep-drill into the minutiae of a user’s life and lifestyle choices must in our view be coupled with well defined and mature user controls and an equally mature privacy outlook. Neither of these elements has been demonstrated,” Privacy International said.
“Rather, we have witnessed an attitude to privacy within Google that at its most blatant is hostile, and at its most benign is ambivalent. These dynamics do not pervade other major players such as Microsoft or eBay, both of which have made notable improvements to the corporate ethos on privacy issues.”
So is Google too powerful? Should it be split up, as people argued (and indeed still do argue) should happen to Microsoft? The debate about Google’s attitude to privacy will rumble on. It’ll be interesting to see where it sits in the rankings when Privacy International publishes its full report in September.