After releasing the report yesterday, PI today published on its Web site an open letter from PI director Simon Davies to Google CEO Eric Schmidt. In it, Davies accuses the company of calling into question the integrity of the group's findings, saying that Google "representative or representatives" contacted journalists about the study before it was released and "made particular reference to one member of our 70-member international Advisory Board. This man is a current employee of Microsoft."
While Davies doesn't deny that, indeed, one of PI's advisory board members is a Microsoft employee, he stresses that the member "joined our Advisory Board well before he was headhunted by Microsoft" and that "he is a decent, skilled and honorable man who upon his appointment with Microsoft offered us his resignation. We refused to accept it, and he continues to serve on the Board in a private capacity."
Further, Davies vehemently defends the group's independence and integrity, noting that it has campaigned against many company's over privacy, including Microsoft: "[We] publicly supported the EU Commission investigation into Microsoft, that we nominated Microsoft for the US Big Brother Award in 2003, that we awarded Microsoft the "Worst Corporate Invader" award at the 1999 US Big Brother Awards, [and] that we publicly accused Microsoft of subverting its software security ... ."
PI points out that while Microsoft did earn a rating of "Serious Lapses" -- two ranks better than Google, Windows Live Space was deemed a "Substantial Threat." Meanwhile Google's Orkut was not tagged with the worst rating as Google was; rather, it also received "Substantial Threat" status.
"Can I be so bold as to suggest that your company's actions stem from sour grapes that you achieved the lowest ranking amongst the Internet giants?" Davies writes. "We have no specific axe to grind with Google. It is one of many companies demonstrating a poor privacy performance, and in assessing that performance we are acting solely with the intention of raising public awareness."
He goes on to write, "I believe an apology from you is in order, but if you cannot deliver this then I think you should reflect carefully on the actions of your representatives before embarking on what I believe amounts to a smear campaign."
Privacy International's report can be downloaded here [PDF].