I Love to Say I Told You So: Google Last in Privacy
I realize I’ve not kept up with this blog as well as I should, but the good news is, there are more and more stories revealing the truth about Google every single day. I think we are now past the tipping point and it’s only a matter of time before the facade comes crumbling down around that colorful innocent looking logo.
Anyway, I just wanted to pass along the most recent coverage of Google. Privacy International, a privacy watchdog group ranked Google dead last in their most recent study. While I hardly find that shocking, here’s an excerpt of their report.
In summary, Google’s specific privacy failures include, but are by no means limited to:
* Google account holders that regularly use even a few of Google’s services must accept that the company retains a large quantity of information about that user, often for an unstated or indefinite length of time, without clear limitation on subsequent use or disclosure, and without an opportunity to delete or withdraw personal data even if the user wishes to terminate the service.
* Google maintains records of all search strings and the associated IP-addresses and time stamps for at least 18 to 24 months and does not provide users with an expungement option. While it is true that many US based companies have not yet established a time frame for retention, there is a prevailing view amongst privacy experts that 18 to 24 months is unacceptable, and possibly unlawful in many parts of the world.
* Google has access to additional personal information, including hobbies, employment, address, and phone number, contained within user profiles in Orkut. Google often maintains these records even after a user has deleted his profile or removed information from Orkut.
* Google collects all search results entered through Google Toolbar and identifies all Google Toolbar users with a unique cookie that allows Google to track the user’s web movement.17 Google does not indicate how long the information collected through Google Toolbar is retained, nor does it offer users a data expungement option in connection with the service.
* Google fails to follow generally accepted privacy practices such as the OECD Privacy Guidelines and elements of EU data protection law. As detailed in the EPIC complaint, Google also fails to adopted additional privacy provisions with respect to specific Google services.
* Google logs search queries in a manner that makes them personally identifiable but fails to provide users with the ability to edit or otherwise expunge records of their previous searches.
* Google fails to give users access to log information generated through their interaction with Google Maps, Google Video, Google Talk, Google Reader, Blogger and other services.
As expected Google’s responded with their typical FUD tactics, generating a smear campaign against the organization. But of course, being readers of this site, I’m sure you can figure out the truth for yourself.