Following a spate of trojan and worm attacks on Orkut and Page Creator that jeopardized users’ financial information, Google has joined a group of U.S. companies in calling for consumer privacy legislation.
The initiative, originating from the signatories (full list here) and applauded by the Center for Democracy and Technology, calls for a “serious process to consider comprehensive harmonized federal privacy legislation to create a simplified, uniform but flexible legal framework.”
“The legislation should provide protection for consumers from inappropriate collection and misuse of their personal information and also enable legitimate businesses to use information to promote economic and social value. In principle, such legislation would address businesses collecting personal information from consumers in a transparent manner with appropriate notice; providing consumers with meaningful choice regarding the use and disclosure of that information; allowing consumers reasonable access to personal information they have provided; and protecting such information from misuse or unauthorized access. Because a national standard would preempt state laws, a robust framework is warranted.“
Other companies signed on to the call for legislation include Microsoft, Oracle, Sun, eBay and several others.
Google’s mission to organize all the world’s information has often been at odds with privacy concerns. Last January, Google refused to submit to a request from the Justice Department to release search records, but also admitted that it keeps and collects individual users’ search queries.
As Google rolls out more and more enabling technologies, such as Google Wallet and Google Base, it’s in the company’s interests to protect itself by ensuring that it complies with a federal law that protects consumers. Presumably, a federal law would be broad enough not to severely restrict Google’s business practices. Google is probably hoping to avoid a scenario where individual states pass Internet consumer privacy laws.
Meanwhile, Google Watch’s solution to privacy concerns continues to be Office in a Bucket.