Google Testifies About Privacy in Washington

By: Chris Crum - June 18, 2009

Today a joint hearing on online advertising between two subcommittees of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce is being held. Google’s Deputy General Counsel Nicole Wong is giving a testimony about advertising products and the company’s commitment to protecting user privacy.

There have been a lot of privacy concerns regarding Google’s Interest-based advertising, which was announced earlier this year. Essentially, this is where Google serves ads based on users’ browsing history. The company does have a video available about privacy in relation to this.

In her testimony, which is available in its entirety in this PDF document, Wong discusses three main topics. These are:

– Google’s main advertising products and the benefits Google believes online advertising brings to advertisers, online publishers, and individual Internet users

– Google’s approach to privacy, specific steps that the company takes to protect users’ privacy, and the release of interest-based advertising

– Ideas and recommendations for how to better protect Internet users’ privacy with respect to advertising, as well as more generally

Nicole WongIn the first part,  Wong discusses the benefits of AdWords, AdSense for search, AdSense for Content, the Google Content Network, DoubleClick, etc. "In our experience, users value the advertisements that we deliver along with search results and other web content because the ads help connect them to the information, products, and services they’re looking for," she says.

With regards to privacy, Wong says the following three fundamentals have to be "at the bedrock of" privacy products and practices:

– Transparency
– Choice
– Security

Wong also notes that innovation is "a critical part" of Google’s approach to privacy. "To best innovate in privacy, we welcome the feedback of privacy advocates, government experts, our users, and other stakeholders," she says. "This feedback, and our own internal discussions about how to protect privacy, has led to several privacy innovations, including our development of new privacy tools for new products and our decision last year to anonymize our server logs after nine months for IP addresses and 18 months for cookies."

If you have any amount of interest in Google and privacy, particularly with its relation to advertising, you should definitely read the entire testimony. What do you think about it? Comment.

Chris Crum

About the Author

Chris CrumChris Crum has been a part of the WebProNews team and the iEntry Network of B2B Publications since 2003. Follow Chris on Twitter, on StumbleUpon, on Pinterest and/or on Google: +Chris Crum.

View all posts by Chris Crum
  • estewart

    Google said that they decided “last year to anonymize our server logs after nine months for IP addresses and 18 months for cookies.”

    WHY elect the stated 9 months and 18 months extents? If anonymity (i.e., “personal privacy”) is of any actual value? Why, oh, why elect these two relatively long periods? Why not just one or two months for the both of them? Or even better, a mere week?

    Anyone interested in a given product prolly no longer is beyond a couple of weeks — as a result of a purchase having been made by then. And so conning advertisers into the idea of forking out for 9 or 18 months, would be a scam.

    For example, a cordless electric drill I looked for and ordered online a few days ago I was just now using. It was bought and delivered, and not a week had passed. And the day before I ordered it, I had no thought about making the purchase. And when I did think of it, I had a receipt for the purchase in my email box within the next 20 minutes, or maybe it was a lot less. It was then a done-deal. And any saved cookie about my interest in electric drills is now utter Nonsense, not Adsense.