Privacy Consultancy Quits Client Work After Impartiality Gripes

imageLooks like Google’s effort to blacken a privacy consultancy allegedly on Microsoft’s books has worked. After non-profit surveillance watchdog Privacy International complained about Street View last month, Google grumbled the group can’t be impartial because two of its directors also operate a private privacy consultancy that counts Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT) PR firm Burston-Marsteller as a partner.

Privacy International seems to agree. On Tuesday, that consultancy, 80/20 Thinking, announced it will end all work for private clients and instead focus on advocating privacy technologies. 80/20’s statement acknowledges: “There is a long-term risk of a perception of conflict of interest with the independent role of Privacy International as a campaigner and watchdog. The conflict of interest issue has already been raised by a number of observers. We respect their view on this matter, and have thought deeply to find a way to resolve this problem.”

Perhaps notably, the statement was not attributed to Simon Davies, the leading director of both organisations, who had lodged the Street View complaint and whom Google (NSDQ: GOOG) alleged was conducting a “smear campaign” against it by using 80/20 to work for rival companies. The statement explains that the 15 months since the firm was founded “has not been without challenges”, acknowledging that, “in this (Privacy International) role, (the directors) have a responsibility to campaign against privacy invasion without fear or favour”.

Privacy International in 2007 placed Google bottom of a 23-strong internet privacy table, but Davies declared controversial behavioural ad target Phorm safe last year after being commissioned for a privacy assessment by the company.