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Upset buzz after Google’s low ranking in privacy policy-study June 11, 2007

Posted by John in Technology.
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Big feelings being played out today in regards to a study from British Privacy International ranking Google as having the worst privacy policy among the popular internet firms. The news, reported by BBC News and The Observer among others, has stirred up a number of angry defenders for both sides.

Here’s a quick sum up of the report, which is the result of six months investigation of 20 popular net firms to find out how they handle the personal information users give when starting to use their services: The BBC writes that none of the firms featured in the report got a “privacy friendly” rating. Yahoo and AOL were said to have “substantial threats” to privacy as were Facebook and Hi5 for the allegedly poor way they dealt with user data. Microsoft, one place higher in the rankings than these four firms, was described as having “serious lapses” in its privacy policy.
But Google is the one leading a “race to the bottom” among net firms of whom had policies that did little to substantially protect users,
according to Privacy International. This because of the sheer amount of data it gathers about users and their activities, because it’s privacy policies are incomplete and for its poor record of responding to complaints.

The official response from Google was naturally disappointment and saying that the report was based on inaccuracies and misunderstandings. But under the surface there are stronger feelings. One of the company’s main defenders Matt Cutts, head of Google’s Webspam team, address the study in a long and frustrated response on his blog. Several bloggers and analyst write along the same lines, see Techmeme for the full discussion. However at Inside Chatter Donna Bogotan takes Cutts down saying that “his plea for Google does not ring true”.

A long and well-written analysis of the study can be found at Danny Sullivan’s SearchEngineLand. It addresses both Privacy International and Google: “Overall, looking at just the performance of the best companies Privacy International I found shows that Google measures up well — and thus ranking it the worse simply doesn’t seem fair. But the bigger issue is that the report itself doesn’t appear to be as comprehensive or fully researched as it is billed. Frankly, about the only thing saving Privacy International from many more companies or services being upset over this report is that they singled out Google as the worse,” Sullivan writes adding some advice to Google: Appoint a privacy czar.

At Scobleizer Robert Scoble concludes that Google’s PR is really stinky: “Google isn’t paying attention to what normal people think of it anymore and it’s getting a bad reputation because of that,” he writes pointing out that Google’s PR isn’t “warm and fuzzy”.

So – who runs Google PR? Why isn’t he or she blogging, Robert Scoble asks. We agree. Conversations and collaborations with users/viewers/clients is one of the most important aspect of doing business in the web 2.0-world. Google knows that.

By Tina Magnergard Bjers and John Furrier

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1. Kamla Bhatt Blog » Googleophobia + Privacy - June 17, 2007

[...] by placing Google at the bottom they will set off a controversy. And boy did that report set off a debate on the net last week. Google appears to be losing this privacy war. Is Google the big [...]


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