Google has defended its privacy credentials following a claim by Microsoft's privacy chief last week that the search giant was a decade behind Microsoft when it came to privacy.
"Google's a great company, got some great products, but you know in some respects I think Google is where Microsoft was seven or 10 years ago," Peter Cullen, Microsoft's chief privacy strategist told ZDNet.com.au last week in a video interview.
The rebuttal came immediately: "There are different ways of deploying privacy awareness within a company," a Google Australia spokesperson today said in response.
Visiting Australia to host the Australian Privacy Commissioner's Privacy Awareness Week awards, Microsoft's chief privacy officer Peter Cullen last week said that while Microsoft tackled privacy issues in product development, Google only dealt with concerns reactively, for example, after products such as Street View were released.
Cullen said Google had not invested to the same extent that Microsoft had in building its teams to deliver privacy-aware products. "Microsoft has over 40 full-time people invested in privacy and over 400 part-time people. Google hasn't — at least from what I read about them — evolved to that," he added.
Google's spokesperson declined to disclose how many privacy officers it had hired, but said the company had lawyers dedicated to the issue.
"We have lots of specialised lawyers and government affairs teams all around the world whose job is to think about the privacy implications in the development of products," the spokesperson said.
He also labelled Microsoft's privacy team as "isolated".
"Rather than a single, isolated privacy department, here at Google we embed the importance of privacy into our products and systems from engineers through to executives, guided by trained privacy professionals," he said.
"All our engineering, legal, policy and communications teams work closely together to build privacy protections into our products."
In what has been called a publicity stunt by some, both Google and Microsoft last year promised to make their search logs anonymous, but only after 18 months.
Google has also launched its own Privacy channel on YouTube to explain the company's approach to privacy in plain English, which according to privacy advocates has been one of the company's strengths.