Google Privacy Practices Under Attack

Privacy International, a London-based privacy watchdog group, has issued a report citing Google’s privacy practices as the worst among large online destinations.

None of the sites reviewed scored a “privacy friendly” ranking. Several were labeled “privacy aware” but needing improvements or generally aware but with “notable lapses.” Sites like AOL, Facebook, Yahoo, and Microsoft Windows Live Spaces were labeled a “substantial threat.” But Google was the worst offender of the bunch, according to the report, getting the only “hostile to privacy” label of the group.

The report didn’t center on Google, but called out several players for their records on privacy:

While there may be a temptation to focus criticism on Google’s privacy performance, it is important to note that not one of the ranked organizations achieved a “green” status. Overall, the privacy standard of the key Internet players is appalling, with some companies demonstrating either willful or a mindless disregard for the privacy rights of their customers. Even the better performing companies create lapses of privacy that are avoidable. With minimal effort most organizations can improve their privacy performance by at least one grade.

Privacy International spoke with AP, and followed the news coverage with an Open Letter to Google criticizing some of Google’s responses to the media.

Yesterday, Danny Sullivan takes Privacy International to task at Search Engine Land in “Google Bad On Privacy? Maybe It’s Privacy International’s Report That Sucks.” Sullivan criticizes the lack of firsthand information used in the report, and points to several examples where Google seems to have been judged more harshly than other companies in the study for similar track records.

Google engineer Matt Cutts weighs in today with “Why I disagree with Privacy International.”

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