Press Release

Consumer Group Calls On Google To Offer Zero Personal Data Retention Policy

CONTACT: 310-392-0522 ext. 317

Fri, Dec 19, 2008 at 12:12 pm

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Seeks Meeting With Chairman Eric Schmidt About Privacy Concerns

Santa Monica, CA — Google should offer users of its search engine
the ability to leave no personal data on the Internet giant’s servers,
the nonpartisan, nonprofit Consumer Watchdog said today and asked for a
meeting with Google’s chairman to discuss the group’s privacy concerns.

In a letter to Google Chairman Eric Schmidt, Consumer Watchdog
President Jamie Court and Policy Advocate John M. Simpson noted that
the search engine Ask.Com offers the ability for users’ personal data
to be removed almost immediately from its servers with its AskEraser
service. “We call on you to offer Google’s users such a clearly
identifiable ‘opt out’ function on its search engine that is
essentially a zero personal data retention policy.”

During  a question and answer period at a New America Foundation speech
in Washington, DC, Schmidt told Simpson that he was “sympathetic” to
the group’s privacy concerns and told him to arrange a meeting “off
line” rather than in front of 200 people. See a video of that exchange
here:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NKybBlEjSyk&eurl

The letter to Google came after the announcement this week by its rival
Yahoo!  that it will anonymize personal data it retains after only 90
days.  Google currently keeps the data for nine months.  European
privacy officials have suggested a six-month standard, a limit that
Microsoft said it would adopt if all search engine companies adopt the
standard.

“This is really about choice,” said Simpson. “People should have the
right to choose what they do with their personal data and if they
provide it all.”

Consumer Watchdog’s letter requests a meeting with Schmidt to discuss
the consumer group’s privacy concerns and follows an Oct. 13 letter to
Google.

Read that letter here: http://www.consumerwatchdog.org/resources/LtrGoogle10-13-08.pdf

Read Google’s Nov. 26 response here: http://www.consumerwatchdog.org/resources/Googleresponse112608.pdf

Read today’s letter to Schmidt here: http://www.consumerwatchdog.org/resources/LtrGoogle121908.pdf

“Google, because of its dominance on the Internet, stands alone as the
entity most able to set and maintain a gold standard for protecting
privacy,” the letter said. “Conversely, it could also be the company
that sounds the death knell for privacy protections on the Internet.”

To guarantee privacy, Consumer Watchdog said, users need: 1) control
over their private data; 2) transparency about how their data is
gathered and used; and 3) the right to give informed consent through
“opt in” functions, rather than having to sift through pages in order
to even locate the “opt out” function, or in its absence, a clearly
identifiable and accessible “opt out.”

View videos that demonstrate how users are in an unnoticed conversation with Google when they use its services at http://www.consumerwatchdog.org/google.

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Consumer Watchdog, formerly The Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights, is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization.

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This post was written by:

John M. Simpson

- who has written 351 posts on Inside Google.

John M. Simpson is a leading voice on technological privacy and stem cell research issues. His investigations this year of Google’s online privacy practices and book publishing agreements triggered intense media scrutiny and federal interest in the online giant’s business practices. His critique of patents on human embryonic stem cells has been key to expanding the ability of American scientists to conduct stem cell research. He has ensured that California’s taxpayer-funded stem cell research will lead to broadly accessible and affordable medicine and not just government-subsidized profiteering. Prior to joining Consumer Watchdog in 2005, he was executive editor of Tribune Media Services International, a syndication company. Before that, he was deputy editor of USA Today and editor of its international edition. Simpson taught journalism a Dublin City University in Ireland, and consulted for The Irish Times and The Gleaner in Jamaica. He served as president of the World Editors Forum. He holds a B.A. in philosophy from Harpur College of SUNY Binghamton and was a Gannett Fellow at the Center for Asian and Pacific Studies at the University of Hawaii. He has an M.A. in Communication Management from USC’s Annenberg School for Communication.

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