Watchdog group flunks Google on privacy practices

Watchdog group ranks Google among the worst top Internet sites for privacy, but Google says report is based on inaccuracies.

Michelle Meyers
Michelle Meyers wrote and edited CNET News stories from 2005 to 2020 and is now a contributor to CNET.
Michelle Meyers
2 min read

In what looks to be brewing into a mutual smear campaign, London-based Privacy International has ranked Google among the worst top Internet sites for privacy protection, and Google is reportedly taking the watchdog group to task.

Privacy International isn't scheduled to officially release its report ranking privacy performance of the top sites until 7 p.m. EDT Saturday. But the Associated Press and other media outlets, who apparently got sneak previews, are reporting that Privacy International assigned Google its lowest possible grade, a category reserved for companies with "comprehensive consumer surveillance and entrenched hostility to privacy." (NOTE: After this item was written, the entire Privacy International report was posted to the Web: "A Race to the Bottom: Privacy Ranking of Internet Service Companies.")

None of the 22 other companies surveyed--including Yahoo, Microsoft and AOL--sunk to that level, the AP said. The story goes on to quote Google's deputy general counsel who was disappointed with the report, "which is based on numerous inaccuracies and misunderstandings about our services."

While the report isn't yet available on the group's site, there is a statement posted accusing Google of embarking "on a smear campaign within the media to discredit both PI and the report."

"Privacy International will simultaneously publish a detailed open letter to Google and a demand for an apology," the posting reads.

PI's report is just the latest in a string of attacks on Google's privacy policies. A European Commission advisory group recently raised concerns about how Google uses and manages users' search data. And three public-interest groups have pressured the U.S. Federal Trade Commission to investigate the potential threat for consumer privacy posed by Google's planned acquisition of DoubleClick.