May 11, 2007

Privacy and the Almighty Dollar

Apparently Google feels that operations in China are more important than user privacy... still. In a shareholder vote held yesterday, they voted against a proposal which outlined the following:
  1. Data that can identify individual users should not be hosted in Internet-restricting countries, where political speech can be treated as a crime by the legal system.
  2. The company will not engage in pro-active censorship.
  3. The company will use all legal means to resist demands for censorship. The company will only comply with such demands if required to do so through legally binding procedures.
  4. Users will be clearly informed when the company has acceded to legally binding government requests to filter or otherwise censor content that the user is trying to access.
  5. Users should be informed about the company's data retention practices, and the ways in which their data is shared with third parties.
  6. The company will document all cases where legally binding censorship requests have been complied with, and that information will be publicly available.
While much coverage on this issue has focused on the censorship issues while operating (for example) in China, ignored were the stipulations about disclosure to third parties and data retention practices.

The shareholders were advised by Google Sr Executives that this measure should be voted down, as it would prohibit their operations in China. While I understand this point of view, at some point, conscionable corporations are going to have to face data protection, disclosure, and retention issues head on. Perhaps a more well informed shareholder base will be required to force such practices on public companies.

1 point for the dollar, 0 for privacy.

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