Google Has Worst Privacy Policy Of Major Web Firms

No one escapes unharmed following a new report from Privacy International.

Think Microsoft is the devil incarnate and Google its nemesis and fighter for all that is good and holy? Looks like a rethink is required…

The web search monster has been rated as having the worst privacy policy when ranked against 22 other major Internet firms following a six month investigation survey by human rights group Privacy International. Conducted over a six month period, the report found numerous breaches and/or lapses in Google’s business practices and highlighted examples such as the company’s decision to retain information from a user’s Orkut account even after deletion and its practice of recording all search strings and their associated IP addresses for periods of up to 24 months.

Justifying its controversial ruling, Privacy International said “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.” It has also written an Open Letter to Google CEO Eric Schmidt.

Naturally enough, Google has disputed the findings with company rep Nicole Wong saying in a statement, “We are disappointed with Privacy International’s report which is based on numerous inaccuracies and misunderstandings about our services. We recognise that user trust is central to our business and Google aggressively protects our users’ privacy.” Privacy International said it plans to release a far more detailed version of its report in September once it has had the chance to speak with all the firms involved.

Interestingly, the firms investigated read like a who’s-who of the 2007 Internet landscape and consist of Amazon, AOL, Apple, the BBC, Bebo, eBay, Facebook, Friendster, Google, Hi5,, LinkedIn, LiveJournal, Microsoft, Myspace, Orkut,, Skype, Wikipedia, Windows Live Space, Xanga, Yahoo! and YouTube. It is also worth noting that Google aside, no firms was ranked in the top ‘Privacy Friendly’ bracket with the BBC, eBay and figuring best being described as “Generally privacy aware but in need of improvement”.

In sum – whether disputed or not – the investigation highlights how we have all become increasingly sucked into so-called ‘Web 2.0’ culture with little thought towards what details we give out and (perhaps more vitally) how the companies who take them appear just as reckless…

”’Update:”’ Google has cut its data retention times from 18 to 24 months to a maximum of 18 months. The move comes in response not only to Privacy International’s report but also after the European advisory body ‘Article 29’ said Google’s previous policy could infringe upon European privacy laws. Radical changes begin with small steps…

Privacy International

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