Privacy Ranking of Internet Service Companies

By EDRi · June 20, 2007

(Dieser Artikel ist auch in deutscher Sprache verfügbar)

Privacy International (PI) has undertaken a study that reveals the
privacy threats and rank the positions in this matter of key players on the
Internet services market. The objective of the research is not only to point
fingers but also to find out trends and emergent issues related to privacy
on the Internet.

The report was issued by PI after a six-month investigation on the privacy
practices covering search, email, e-commerce and social networking sites.

The methodology used included 20 main parameters among which data
collection and processing, data retention, openness and transparency or
responsiveness to customers’ complaints.

Data was gathered from newspaper articles, privacy policies, blogs,
submissions to government inquiries, information obtained from present and
former company staff, technical analyses and interviews with company

Because the 2007 rankings are a precedent, PI will regard the current report
as a consultation report and will establish a broad outreach for two months
to ensure that any new and relevant information is taken into account before
publishing a full report in September.

The research has coded the companies by colour, from green “privacy-friendly
and privacy enhancing”, to black, “comprehensive consumer surveillance and
entrenched hostility to privacy”. While there was no company ranked in the
green area, and only few were ranked blue, “generally privacy aware”, (such
as eBay, LiveJournal, Wikipedia), the only company coded black by the
preliminary stage of the research was Google.

Google was mostly criticized for its lack of transparency, PI considering
that its data retention policy was not very clear. “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. 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’s privacy policy was considered “vague, incomplete and possibly
deceptive”, and its response to customers’ complaints, a poor one.

A Google employee’s blog, Matt Cutts, complained by the fact that the
company was not given credit for not handing over data to the US Government
and for not having leaked search queries of its users.

In an open letter addressed to Google’s CEO Eric Schmidt, Privacy
International accused Google for having smeared its good name. “Two European
journalists have independently told us that Google representatives have
contacted them with the claim that ‘Privacy International has a conflict of
interest regarding Microsoft’.” PI also stated no company had made such
accusation in its 17 years of life.

PI asked for an apology from Google, “but if you cannot deliver this then I
think you should reflect carefully on the actions of your representatives
before embarking on what I believe amounts to a smear campaign. As with
Microsoft, eBay and any other organisation we are more than happy to work
with you to help resolve the many privacy challenges for Google that our
report has highlighted.”

A Race to the Bottom: Privacy Ranking of Internet Service Companies, A
Consultation report (9.06.2007)[347]=x-347-553961

Privacy International accuses Google of smear campaign (11.06.2007)

Why I disagree with Privacy International (11.06.2007)

Why I disagree with Privacy International

An Open Letter to Google (10.06.2007)[347]=x-347-553964