Google Almost “Endemic Threat to Privacy”
Privacy International chose to label Google as with the worst privacy rating of any of the twenty-three companies they examined in their report on privacy for Internet service companies.
I think that at least some of the reasoning behind PI’s rating is found in their statement:
We are aware that the decision to place Google at the bottom of the ranking is likely to be controversial. . . .
I think that there are definitely some areas that Google can work on as far as private information goes—but I also think that PI knew when they chose Google that all things Google are pressworthy.
What does Privacy International really expect? While it’s not totally clear from their report, it seems that they’re deeply concerned that Google is collecting usage information on searches and their other products. However, I think it’s unreasonable to expect any interactive software company not to collect information about its users in an effort to improve the end user experience.
If you’re that concerned about your privacy, lie to them. As long as they’re not paying you (in which case, by law, they have to collect tax information from you), you can give Google a fake name and other information. Better yet, don’t use them. Log out of your account and never use them again. You can certainly make do with a different, “orange” level service.
For more information on Privacy International’s study see:
- Search Engine Land for Danny’s point-by-point analysis of whether Google’s rating was deserved and some great discussion.
- Google Blogoscope’s counter arguments to the report, several of which I made as I read about the study in the newspaper yesterday.
- Matt Cutts’s gut reaction. He raises good some issues, including data leaks and other security issues which have been high profile news in the last year perpetrated by “orange” or better companies.