EFF Condemns Google For Circumventing Safari Privacy Protections

from the but,-i-thought-they-were-a-mouthpiece... dept

One of the common statements that we heard time and time again from SOPA/PIPA supporters in the last couple months was that all of the many civil liberties groups that worked against the bills were really "Google fronts." The key target in these attacks was almost always EFF -- a group which is pretty widely respected. It's also kind of strange, because looking over the EFF's most recent (public) financial statement (pdf), there isn't much evidence of Google support. Not only is corporate funding only about 15% of EFF's total budget, but Google isn't even listed as a company sponsor in the listing of companies which donated.

Either way, I'm curious how those who continue to insist that EFF is a Google front have to say about EFF's extremely pointed, open letter to Google for its latest privacy failure -- circumventing Safari's privacy settings for millions of users to track web browsing habits of people who specifically opted-out of such tracking.

For what it's worth, this does appear to be a pretty big screw-up on Google's part -- and knowing how quickly some Google haters assume any privacy issue is nefarious and make a big deal of it, I fully expect that Google is going to end up having to pay big time for this mistake. It's worth noting, of course, that at least three other ad companies, including giant WPP, were spotted using the same technique to get around restrictions. But since there's been so much focus on Google and privacy, Google-haters will certainly make quite a lot of noise about this particular issue.

I also absolutely agree with the EFF's statement that Google not only needs to acknowledge that it can do a better job on privacy issues, it should, in fact, be expected to do a lot more concerning privacy issues (though I'm not convinced the "Do Not Track" is really the proper solution). Google's privacy efforts often seem to lag behind its open and consumer-first focus on other issues. I think that's unfortunate.

The EFF doesn't mince words on this:
Google, the time has finally come. You need to make a pro-privacy offering to restore your users' trust.

Internet users worldwide have loved your products for years, and we've often praised your stance on free expression and transparency and your efforts to limit government access to users' information. But when it comes to consumer choice around privacy, your commitment to users has been weaker. That's bad for users, for the future of the Internet, and ultimately, for you. We need to create an Internet that gives users meaningful choice about sharing their personal data, and we need your help to do it.

It's time for a new chapter in Google's policy regarding privacy. It's time to commit to giving users a voice about tracking and then respecting those wishes.
Either way, I'm curious how those who continue to insist that EFF is merely a front group for Google respond to issues like this one -- which is probably an even more "core" issue for Google. EFF has been on the opposite side of Google on privacy issues in the past. Isn't it possible that EFF is an entirely separate organization from Google and has its own views on a variety of issues -- some of which align with Google and some of which do not? One would hope that issues like this would put to rest the silly claims that EFF's involvement in the SOPA/PIPA fights were really just about acting on behalf of Google.

Filed Under: cookies, do not track, privacy, safari, settings
Companies: eff, google

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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Feb 2012 @ 4:56pm


    For the post's other point that the EFF and Google are and always have been joined at the hip, according to certain people, I'm sure the same people who make that argument will find ways to spin it so that the EFF and Google are still joined at the hip no matter what this open letter shows.

    The thing (well, one of the things) I never understood about those people is how they ever expect to defeat Google after acknowledging that they have a time machine. I mean how else could Google have gone back in time to create the EFF eight years before Google even existed?

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