Cutts Reports Conflict Of Interest In Privacy/Advertising Study

    October 2, 2009

Often, the source of a statement means everything.  It might, for example, be more newsworthy if Gordon Brown labeled Americans "silly" than if (or when) Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called us all evil pigs.  And Matt Cutts would just like everyone to know that one source of a study on advertising isn’t exactly Google’s best friend.

This morning, a lot of headlines declared that at least two-thirds of Americans don’t want to be tracked by advertisers online, even for the sake of more relevant ads or discounts.  The articles got their figures from a new study. 

Matt Cutts

But Cutts wrote on his blog, "One of the study’s co-authors was Chris Jay Hoofnagle.  Hoofnagle has served as the Senior Counsel and Director of the West Coast Office of Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC).  You haven’t heard of EPIC?  EPIC was the group that in 2004 argued that Gmail should be shut down: ‘In a letter sent to California Attorney General Bill Lockyer on Monday, the Electronic Privacy Information Center argued that Gmail must be shut down because it ‘represents an unprecedented invasion into the sanctity of private communications.’"

Cutts then added, "I can guess what you’re saying.  ‘That was five years ago.  People didn’t know then how useful Gmail was going to be.’  Okay, then did you know that EPIC lobbied the government to shut down Google Apps earlier this year?"

In light of this information, the fresh study doesn’t look quite so ominous for Google and the online advertising industry.