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After months of European criticism of its privacy policies and as it crosses fingers the US Federal Trade Commission will green-light its DoubleClick acquisition despite similar concerns, Google (Nasdaq:GOOG) is today backing a new international standard for how companies should protect users’ data privacy. At a Unesco meeting on ethics in Strasbourg, France, Google’s privacy counsel Peter Fleischer was due to endorse the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation’s (APEC) Privacy Framework (full document here), which was approved by member governments in 2004 and focuses on “preventing harm” to users
Fleischer last night (via CNET News.com): “We need to work together to create minimum global standards partly by law and partly by self-regulation. Other countries have an ideological bent. .. APEC has a pragmatic focus on privacy harms… not abstractions.”
In June, the London-based Privacy International watchdog rated Google bottom out of 23 sites for privacy policies and the site bowed to a European working party of data privacy officials’ concerns over its data retention period by agreeing to bring forward the anonymisation of user search records from 24 months to 18 months. In July, Google cut the length of time before users’ cookies expire by 31 years, then last week the European Commission began polling Google users on the proposed $3.1 billion acquisition of ad network DoubleClick. If Google can drape itself in a standard already agreed on the international political stage, it may avoid incurring such negativity in future.
Electronic Privacy Information Center’s Mark Rotenberg told CNET the APEC proposal was “weak” and Google was “trying desperately to push” the acquisition, but Google’s Fleischer countered: “We would do this regardless of whether DoubleClick were part of the equation or not.”