GoogleprivacyA recent report released by Privacy International, a watchdog group, implies that Google’s privacy policies are in need of some attention after giving Google the lowest ranking possible. For Google, this is a huge slap in the face. For Privacy International, it’s warranted them a lot of free publicity. Perhaps this is what they wanted.

The report makes Privacy International look like an unreliable source of information. They admitted that they never talked with Google to discuss their policies, so how is it that they know so much about their practices? Sure, privacy is always something that needs to be addressed and looked at carefully, however, did Google really deserve the lowest ranking possible?

I really like the points made by Matt Cutts, who works at Google. Cutts posted a well thought-out reaction to all of this and made some valid points. He was mad over this, and rightfully so.  At the end of the study, Google was given the lowest rating possible, below anyone else, yet:

  • In the last year, AOL released a list of 20 million search queries from 500,000 users.  Remember all of the eerie content that came out of that mistake? This was a major privacy issue. Perhaps one of the biggest of 2006.
  • Google has previously gone to court to challenge subpoenas from the Department of Justice who requested search queries from users regarding the Child Online Protection Act. In this case, the judge ruled in their favor, yet other big names like Microsoft, Yahoo, and AOL simply handed the information over. Google showed that they do care about privacy, and they’re willing to stand up for their users to protect it.

Those are only two examples of major privacy issues we’ve seen over the last year, and there are surely many, many more. Does it seem fair then that Google was “singled-out” as the worst? I surely won’t sit and defend Google unless they deserve defending, and in this situation I think they do.

Of course, Donna Bogatin counters each of the above examples from Matt Cutts, which is another interesting read and take on the Privacy International report.

People are concerned for their privacy, and they should be. However, if Google received the lowest ranking, I believe others should have to, given some of the privacy issues we’ve seen in 2006 with other big names. It will be interesting to see if/how Google  officially responds to this report, and what the follow up report from Privacy International will look like in September.