Privacy International splits off consultancy arm

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Privacy International splits off consultancy arm

Following complaints by Google that Privacy International is “far from impartial” the privacy body's director Simon Davies has announced his separate 80/20 Thinking consulting business will no longer offer private advice to firms on privacy related issues.

80/20 Thinking was launched 15 months ago by Davies and Gus Hosein.

It has since advised a range of high tech firms on how best to secure customer data, including eBay, AOL and Phorm.

But from August this year, 80/20 Thinking will focus purely on technology development because of criticism launched at Privacy International due to Davies and Hosein holding senior positions with both organisations.

Allegations from observers centred on the likelihood that their motivations when working for the campaigning group would be biased towards 80/20 Thinking customers.

“While this dual involvement has greatly helped client companies that seek to do the right thing by privacy, 80/20 Thinking has concluded that there is a long-term risk of a perception of conflict of interest with the independent role of Privacy International as a campaigner and watchdog,” said the firm in a statement.

“The conflict of interest issue has already been raised by a number of observers. We respect their view on this matter, and have thought deeply to find a way to resolve this problem,” it added.

One of Privacy International’s staunchest critics has been web giant Google.

When Privacy International filed a complaint to the Information Commissioner’s Office about Google’s Street View tool in March, Google declared the complaint was an "entirely predictable publicity stunt by an organisation that is far from impartial when it comes to the issue of Google and privacy".

Davies subsequently wrote an open letter to Google asserting 80/20 Thinking’s impartiality.

“We are quite frankly stunned that a company such as Google would take steps to engage a former government spin-doctor to peddle groundless conspiracy theories in an attempt to besmirch a critic,” he added.

The tension between the two organisations arose when Privacy International's first privacy ranking published in June 2007 gave Google the lowest ranking among the major companies it surveyed.

Google has also often pointed to "a conflict of interest" arising from Microsoft's Casper Bowden being a Privacy International advisory board member.

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