Google, which has weathered fierce criticisms for the way it harvests and retains data on users Web searches, called on Sept. 14 for world governments and fellow tech companies to support the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Privacy Framework.
APECs goals are aimed at striking a balance between sharing information over the Internet and protecting users rights to privacy.
Google Global Privacy Counsel Peter Fleischer endorsed the APEC Framework and proposed a discussion about how to protect peoples privacy on the Internet in a blog post, citing the lack of international privacy policies.
"To my mind, the APEC Framework is the most promising foundation on which to build," wrote Fleischer, who, according to a Google spokesperson, made his case at a regional UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) conference in Strasbourg, France on Sept. 14.
"The APEC framework already carefully balances information privacy with business needs and commercial interests, and unlike the OECD guidelines and the European Directive, it was developed in the Internet age," Fleischer added.
Read more here about Google users worrying about data privacy.
Fleisher also cheered APEC for involving countries with different privacy traditions, including Peru, Philippines, New Zealand and Vietnam, noting that if privacy principles can be agreed upon within the 21 APEC member economies, "a similar set of principles could be applied on a global scale."
Fleischer said a universal standard is important because, despite the universal scope of Internet use, most of the worlds countries offer no privacy standards to their citizens and businesses.
Global privacy standards are crucial, Fleischer said, due to the globalization of business over the Web and the rapidly evolving technologies used to disseminate information, which includes more savvy perpetrators adept at lifting personal data from the Internet.
Googles presence at the UNESCO conference was promising, said Ovum research analyst David Bradshaw, who indicated that Fleischers presentation points to Googles privacy leanings.
"The big question is, are they just going to say heres the minimum standard that were going to support worldwide, or is he saying were actually going to do something better," Bradshaw told eWEEK. "Theyve got to lead, otherwise somebody else will try and lead and Google will end up looking like a me too."
Google could use a strong showing on the privacy front. In March, the search giant pledged to anonymize data, including IP addresses and cookie ID numbers, after 18 months.
But then in June, UK privacy group Privacy International ripped Google for its privacy practices. A month later, Google changed its policy on cookie expiration, pledging to throw out the cookies after two years.
Google has been making an effort and is testing new privacy features designed to make using Google safer for third-party advertisers. To wit, the latest proposal to get together for global Internet privacy is a big step forward.
"Theyre in recovery mode from [the poor privacy publicity]," Bradshaw said. "Theyve been hammered in the blogosphere; they havent been hammered by the user base... yet. It only takes one or two incidents for it to tip over."
Bradshaw pointed to the case of the search engine AltaVista, which was taken to task for mixing sponsored search results with ordinary search results.
"By the time theyd actually fixed it, it was too late," Bradshaw said.
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