Monday, July 27, 2009 | 5:16 PM
We were surprised and disappointed to open the Times newspaper today and find a vitriolic column on Google and our record on privacy, from Conservative Member of Parliament David Davis. Responding to speculation in the Times several weeks ago that the Conservative party was in favour of giving patients the ability to transfer their medical records to private companies, Mr Davis decided to launch an extraordinary attack on Google, riddled with misleading statements. Of course, Mr Davis didn't ask us first for our comments or to check his facts before going to press.
Allegation: Google is "hostile to privacy."
We were the first company in our industry to anonymise information when people conduct searches. We took the US government to court when we were asked to hand over large amounts of data to them. Like all of our products, Street View was built from the ground up to respect user privacy. The imagery is not real time. We automatically blur faces and vehicle number plates, and we make it easy for people with concerns to have their homes removed from Street View if they wish. In the months since Street View launched in the UK, tens of millions of people have found it a useful and interesting tool, whether for exploring a tourist destination, finding a restaurant or checking driving directions.
For a company that supposedly ignores European laws, we did not launch Google Street View in the UK until we had the green light from the Information Commissioner! "Google Street View does not contravene the Data Protection Act," said David Evans, the Commissioner's Senior Data Protection Practice Manager, "and, in any case, it is not in the public interest to turn the digital clock back."
We're proud of our track record of protecting user privacy. We work hard to make sure our users understand what data we collect and how we use it, because we are committed to transparency and user choice. The important work of education is made more difficult by polemicists who abuse the truth. We are happy to debate our privacy record or policies anytime, but we'd rather that debate was based on fact not fiction.
Peter Fleischer, Google's Global Privacy Counsel