Google on Transparency

At a panel on Internet Censorship in China at the Computers Freedom and Privacy conference, Google’s senior policy counsel Andrew McLaughlin a set of principles to help Google cope with censorship in China and elsewhere:

  • Disclose censorship to users. Google’s Chinese search engine advises users that they’re getting censored search results.
  • Be transparent to the world. Make sure everyone knows about the censorship practices of a particular country. Google deliberately presents to the rest of the world in the same, censored manner it shows it in China, so that free netizens can compare search results and determine what’s being blocked. Google would make China’s entire blocklist public, but that’s a crime under Chinese law. “I’d like to be able to publish the blocklist, but at least for the moment I don’t feel confident that I wouldn’t be putting Google employees at risk by doing that,” said McLaughlin.
  • Protect users’ personal and confidential information. If a company stores e-mail on Chinese servers, where the government can get it on demand, that company should make sure customers know it.
  • Band together. Google would like to work with other companies with influence in China to effect policy changes, particularly to get the government to meet some minimal due process standards before getting information or censoring a website. “If enough companies with enough accumulated market capital were to sign on, it would actually mean something,” McLaughlin said.
  • Act on all levels. Stockholders should demand that companies follow these principals.

Good ideas, but Google needs to work harder on executing them. Google needs more transparency on its use of personal information, its selection of sources in GoogleNews, its Library/Book search project, the technical assistance it provides AOL to increase their ranking, its policies on who can and cannot be listed in paid search results, and so on…

[via 27B Stroke 6]

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