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Key findings

While there may be a temptation to focus criticism on Google's privacy performance, it is important to note that not one of the ranked organizations achieved a "green" status. Overall, the privacy standard of the key Internet players is appalling, with some companies demonstrating either wilful or a mindless disregard for the privacy rights of their customers. Even the better performing companies create lapses of privacy that are avoidable. With minimal effort most organizations can improve their privacy performance by at least one grade.

The current frenzy to "capture" ad space revenue through the exploitation of new technologies and tools will result in one of the greatest privacy challenges in recent decades. The Internet appears to be shifting as a whole toward this aim, and the opportunity to create market differentiators based on responsible privacy may diminish unless those avenues are explored immediately. We have been impressed by the good work being achieved by some sites, but consumers are right to feel aggrieved when companies fail to adopt the best privacy tools that are available.

On the basis of the evidence we have seen from this study, there is no excuse for any organization to ignore the opportunity to create strong privacy protections. The technologies are available, the expertise is abundant, and the market appears willing to favour sites that treat their customers with respect. We hope that the 2008 rankings will reflect this potential.