The human rights research organization, Privacy International (PI), released a report, following a six-month investigation, into the privacy practices of 22 popular Internet-based companies. Google ranked the lowest with an initial assessment of "hostile to privacy," followed by AOL, Apple, Facebook, Windows Live Spaces, and Yahoo, among others.
"We are aware that the decision to place Google at the bottom of the ranking is likely to be controversial, but throughout our research we have found numerous deficiencies and hostilities in Google's approach to privacy that go well beyond those of other organizations," said Privacy International, in its report.
Privacy International (PI) recently tried to contacted Google, but received no response.
"It's a shame that Privacy International decided to publish its report before we had an opportunity to discuss our privacy practices with them," said Nicole Wong, Google's deputy general counsel. "We are disappointed with Privacy International's report, which is based on numerous inaccuracies and misunderstandings about our services."
Why Google? PI claims Google to retain large quantities of information about all users for an unstated or indefinite length of time with no disclosure or opportunity to delete personal data.
In addition, PI claims it to be a "prevailing view" that a 24 month record of all search strings linked to an individuals IP address is unacceptable, and possibly unlawful.
The list continues, but it is a monotonous tone of drivel that seeps from the mouth of a child; I'll spare you, but there are a few things that trouble me with PI's report.
First, it makes mention of Orkut, Google's online community:
"We ranked Orkut as a separate entity even though it is owned by Google."
But later links the two together while citing the reasons why Google was ranked so poorly, claiming:
"Google often maintains these records (user data) even after a user has deleted his profile or removed information from Orkut."
PI makes no mention as to what Google does with the Orkut data. Why? Because they don't know; but, does not hesitate to lower Google's privacy score as a result of, as stated in the report.
"Google has access to additional personal information, including hobbies, employment, address, and phone number, contained within user profiles in Orkut."
But assessing a company, based on facts unknown, is a violation of its own rules.
"It was not always possible to precisely assess a company's approach in each category. As a result, we erred on the side of caution and gave the company the benefit of the doubt and assessed it only for what we could actually identify."
Ironically, Microsoft was given 'orange' status (two levels better than Google) despite PI's claims that there is "not so much" of a difference between Microsoft and Google's data practices and privacy policies.
Rather, Microsoft achieved a better color as a result of "corporate ethos and leadership." Continuing, PI states Microsoft "appears to have adopted a less antagonistic attitude to privacy."
So Microsoft appearing to have a not so hostile approach gains them 2 levels above Google? Thanks for the privacy report, PI, but it's starting to seem as if there are larger things on your agenda than being concerned about my privacy.
Among those who achieved a 'blue' status of 'generally privacy aware' are BBC, Wikipedia, LiveJournal, and Ebay; however, it should be noted that not one Internet-based company was able to achieve a green light status from PI."
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