Google: We live and die by trust

Google denies the information it collects from users of its Google Election platform causes any tension between its commercial interests and its promise to protect users' privacy.

Google denies the information it collects from users causes any tension between its commercial interests and its promise to protect users' privacy.

Google Australia's spokesman Rob Shilkin hit back at claims that the search giant's promise to preserve the privacy of voters using its Election 2007 platform creates a conflict with its business interests.

"We live and die by trust," said Shilkin.

David Vaile, executive director of the Cyberspace Law and Policy Centre at UNSW, said on Friday: "Google is promising to work against its commercial interests on ethical grounds or [because of] its promise to people, but it does set up a dramatic tension."

Workplace Relations Minister Joe Hockey said although he personally could not afford the information Google collects on its users, he would be interested in seeing their profiles and ages, and which particular topics interest those accessing information through Google's election portal.

Google's Shilkin said: "It is absolutely in Google's interest to strictly preserve user privacy. We recognise that our continued success is based on earning -- and keeping -- our users' trust and we have a long-standing commitment to protecting the privacy of users' information. We have adopted the industry's strongest possible standards for data retention."

However he added: "The issue is that there are no privacy rules regarding what [Internet companies] should do and no rules on retention."

Google currently maintains records of search queries and IP addresses that access its Web site although, according to Shilkin, this data becomes anonymous after 18 months.

Google is currently pushing for the introduction of "pragmatic" international standards to govern privacy and data retention. Peter Fleischer, Google's global privacy counsel, recently said Google would like to see "minimum global standards" introduced but not without constraints.

"Privacy standards should focus on actual harms to consumer privacy," Fleischer said, criticising privacy legislation that has "an ideological bent".

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