Privacy International, the respected global NGO working on a broad range of privacy issues, sent a letter to Google CEO Eric Schmidt on June 10, 2007. A Google representative allegedly contacted at least two journalists suggesting that Privacy International had a conflict of interest in how it determined its new rankings on consumer privacy (Google came out at the bottom of the list). This incident, if true, underscores our assessment of Google at the moment. It’s zealous desire to dramatically expand its online advertising business (which generates all of its profits) is contributing to a corporate culture that is blind to issues related to privacy. There’s a balance here, I suggest, where individuals are guaranteed their rights and digital commerce can simultaneously grow. But Google must become a leader in this area. If it is dragged digitally kicking and screaming down the privacy path, it will lose support in the marketplace. The time for real corporate leadership is now. Egos and ambition are no excuse for not engaging in serious corporate and civic responsibility.
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