Google’s Reputation Takes Another Hit

Harris Interactive, a New York custom market research firm, recently conducted its 13th annual Reputation Quotient Study.  The report asked 17,000 people to select companies that are most visible to them on a daily basis.  The respondents were than asked to rank the top 60 most visible companies by 20 attributes folded into 6 dimensions.  Although Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) lost its top spot to Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) this year, the search engine giant still ranks as the second most reputable company.  However, recent privacy concerns may cause Google to fall further in the rankings.

The report is based on attributes such as admire and respect, trust, high quality and supports good causes.  While Google still ranks ahead of other tech companies such as  Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN), Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT), Sony (NYSE:SNE), IBM (NYSE:IBM), Hewlett-Packard (NYSE:HPQ) and Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX), a new controversial privacy policy has drawn fire from users.  The policy goes into effect on March 1, and merges the privacy policies of all sites under the Google umbrella into one, including Gmail, Google Maps and YouTube.  Any information users provide to one Google-related site will be shared by all of them.  Furthermore, users are not allowed to opt out of the new policy unless they completely avoid using Google-related services.  Fox Van Allen from Tecca explains, “Google will soon have a massive, all-inclusive database of your most private information, from your political leanings to your searches for prescription drugs.”

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However, Google’s quest for user data does not end with the Google umbrella.  Earlier this month, the company introduced Screenwise, a system to monitor all online activity to those who participate in the program.  The program allows Google to track all web activity such as, the time of day people browse, how long they stay on a website and what types of websites are popular.  Google states it “is building a new panel of a few thousand people to learn more about how everyday people use the Internet.”  The compensation for enrolling in the program is an upfront $5 Amazon gift card code, followed by another $5 Amazon code every three months.  The maximum amount a participate can receive is $25.  While handing over even more internet privacy at a cost of Amazon gift card codes seems alarming, many people applied for the program.  Google posted, “Unfortunately, we have more applications than expected and only a limited number of people will be selected for the research panel.”

Despite the concerns of the recent moves by Google, the company insists the changes will help users better use their services.  Since Google is already under federal anti-trust investigation for its search engine results, any misstep with users may further damage Google’s reputation.  For the time being, Google remains the king of search.

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To contact the reporter on this story: Eric McWhinnie at staff.writers@wallstcheatsheet.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Damien Hoffman at editors@wallstcheatsheet.com