San Francisco: Web search leader Google Inc.’s commitment to consumer privacy came under fire from Privacy International, a British activist group that has previously singled out Google for criticism.
The London-based group released a report entitled “A Race to the Bottom - Privacy Ranking of Internet Service Companies” that rates Google, alone among 20 sites, as having an “entrenched hostility to privacy.”
With each search on Google, the company gathers information about a customer’s tastes, interests and beliefs that could potentially be used by third parties such as advertisers. But the company says it never passes on personal data.
While the preliminary report details a handful of specific concerns, the main threat Privacy International spells out is Google’s growing size and scope as the world’s largest provider of Web searches, along with the consumer data that the company collects as it delivers ever more personalized Web services.
“This is in part due to the diversity and specificity of Google’s product range and the ability of the company to share extracted data between these tools, and in part due to Google’s market dominance and sheer size of its user base,” the report finds.
The rankings were arrived at after a six-month probe of privacy practices at key Web search companies, e-mail providers, e-commerce and social networking sites. Privacy International promised to issue a fuller report in September, after further consultation with the companies involved.
However, Google said the latest report was mistaken, “We are disappointed with the report which is based on inaccuracies and misunderstandings about our services,” Nicole Wong, associate general counsel at Mountain View, California-based Google said in a statement.
“(Google) stand(s) by its record of protecting user privacy and offering products that are transparent about what information is collected and empower users to control their personal information,” she said.