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

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Fri, Dec 19, 2008 at 12:12 pm

    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

    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

    “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

    Read that letter here:

    Read Google’s Nov. 26 response here:

    Read today’s letter to Schmidt here:

    “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

    – 30 –

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

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