Google Seeks Global Privacy Standards as DoubleClick Deal is Challenged in EU, Australia

Google said last week it would advocate for global standards on privacy protection, which could ease the privacy outcries and regulatory snags that tend to accompany its product and business moves around the world.

Speaking at a UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) meeting on ethics and human rights in France Friday, Google global privacy counsel Peter Fleischer put forward proposals for new global privacy rules protecting consumer data. In a blog post earlier today he stated that “as long as there are no global standards for privacy protection, individuals and businesses will remain at risk as they operate online.”

Fleischer went on to suggest that the APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation) framework laid out at the 2004 conference provided an appropriate foundation on which to build, arguing that “if privacy principles can be agreed upon within the 21 APEC member economies, a similar set of principles could be applied on a global scale”.

Cynics may point out the timing of the announcements in light of hostility towards the proposed $3.1 billion acquisition of Doubleclick. In an e-mail sent to ClickZ, the Executive Director for the Center for Digital Democracy Jeff Chester stated “It’s clear that this is motivated in part to dampen the growing opposition to the takeover. Google is attempting to head-off a global regulatory digital train-wreck.”

Fleischer played down links between today’s announcements and the pending deal however, describing a “sustained multi-pronged effort by Google to improve privacy practices”, and stating that “We would do this regardless of whether DoubleClick were part of the equation or not.”

Of course, Google is no stranger to Internet privacy concerns. Worries about its practices date back to 2004, when Privacy International filed complaints against targeted ads in Gmail. Doubleclick or no Doubleclick, it seems that Google has learned its lesson, and this time round is rather sensibly adopting a pre-emptive, rather than reactive approach.

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