Privacy: What should Google do?

Public interest groups, academics and members of the press have hammered Google for its lax privacy policies. The criticism has mostly focused on the log deletion practices and browser cookie policies at the search giant. Google claims that search quality and user privacy are a zero-sum game: deleting log data makes it more difficult to improve search results. Perhaps the company is right. However, there are several other pro-privacy steps that Google could take to significantly protect its customers–which it has not done, and continues to reject.Over the last few months, a number of Google’s engineers have issued public statements on the company’s public policy blog to defend its much criticized log data retention policies. The company claims that the data can be used to hunt down malware, to catch people defrauding its advertising system, and can be used to improve search results.These high-profile Googlers make the case that user privacy and search quality are a zero sum game: deleting logs to protect customer privacy makes it far more difficult to provide a good search experience.

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