Google’s letter to Congress on its Privacy Practices: An Attempt to Shift the Focus to Deep-Packet Inspection Issues

Late last evening (10:06 p.m. eastern), I received an email from the Google policy blog list announcing they had submitted a letter to House leaders on privacy and online ad issues. (There’s a case study on media management that can be made about late night-Friday releases designed to avoid weekend or even Monday press scrutiny.)

Google’s letter attempts to shift the focus of the privacy debate to companies engaged in deep-packet inspection–the cable and phone broadband providers. While ISP monitoring and control over a users data flow is inexcusable–and should be prohibited–Google’s data collection and targeting system is of equal concern. There is a purposeful strategy by some to make the only online privacy problem ISP deep-packet monitoring. We don’t buy that–nor should Congress. Like Yahoo!s submission, we don’t believe Google was forthcoming in what it collects and uses for its digital marketing systems. This blog has covered some of what they do in the past–and we will return to the issue early next week (because even bloggers have to take some time off on the weekend).

In its letter, for example, Google should have discussed the privacy implications of opening up its network to third party ad servers engaged in behavioral targeting. It should have provided Congress with information on the data DoubleClick collects and analyzes for target marketing. Or it could have explained how it tracks our use of YouTube so it can inform advertisers which videos are going “viral.”

More on Monday.

Author: jeff

Jeff Chester is executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy. A former journalist and filmmaker, Jeff's book on U.S. electronic media politics, entitled "Digital Destiny: New Media and the Future of Democracy" was published by The New Press in January 2007. He is now working on a new book about interactive advertising and the public interest.

Leave a Reply