Dark Reading is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Risk

8/23/2012
02:59 PM
Connect Directly
LinkedIn
Twitter
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

Google 'Red Team' To Test Product Privacy

Taking privacy seriously translates into new hires for Google.

Google for years has said that it takes privacy very seriously, but the company's recent $22.5 million settlement with the Federal Trade Commission for breaking privacy promises and its commitment last year to endure 20 years of FTC privacy audits following "deceptive privacy practices" is pushing the company to take privacy with new, improved seriousness.

After confessing to being "mortified" in 2010 over revelations that its Street View cars had been vacuuming data cast blithely into the air by people running open WiFi access points, Google appointed Alma Whitten to be its director of privacy, added an information security awareness program for employees, and began requiring engineering product managers to keep a privacy design document for every project.

Now, Google is formalizing internal processes to test product privacy with the formation of a "red team," a group that attempts to challenge an organization's defenses in order to make those defenses more effective. In the security world, this often takes the form of penetration testing. Financial institutions, for example, often hire hackers to try to break into their systems and then implement improvements as needed.

[ Read Tent Promises Open, Distributed Social Networking. ]

A Google job posting, first noted by Kaspersky Lab, calls for candidates to apply for the role of Data Privacy Engineer, Privacy Red Team.

"As a Data Privacy Engineer at Google you will help ensure that our products are designed to the highest standards and are operated in a manner that protects the privacy of our users," the job posting says. "Specifically, you will work as member of our Privacy Red Team to independently identify, research, and help resolve potential privacy risks across all of our products, services, and business processes in place today."

Google declined to comment beyond this statement: "We are always on the lookout for talented people in a variety of roles," a company spokeswoman said in an email.

In 2006, as it was developing and deploying its Web productivity apps, Google made its concern about security more visible with support for organizations like StopBadware.org. Google subsequently launched a security blog in May, 2007. The security process for Web apps at the time just wasn't as formalized as what Microsoft was doing for desktop app security.

But concern about privacy lagged. In 2008, Google was being chided by California State Assemblyman Joel Anderson for not having a link to its privacy policy on its home page, as required by state law. Google was more worried about speed than privacy: The company resisted adding a privacy link because the text would add a few extra bytes to the "weight" of its home page, slowing it by milliseconds and making it unnecessarily cluttered.

The existence of a "red team" inside Google is likely to be seen as a sign that the company is taking privacy seriously. But increasingly, what's going on outside Google is shaping the privacy debate.

Privacy has become a point of competitive differentiation. Google's chief rivals, Apple and Microsoft, have realized that Google can only take privacy so far before it starves itself of the personal data it needs to maximize revenue from the ads it serves. And Mozilla, caught off-guard by Google's introduction of Chrome in 2008, has had to reinvent itself, even as it continues to collect millions from Google every year for making Google the default search engine in Firefox.

So it is that all the major browser vendors except Google--Apple, Microsoft, Mozilla, and Opera--have implemented support for Do Not Track, a technical mechanism by which browser users can communicate the desire not to be tracked for targeted advertising.

The seriousness of Google's avowed concern about privacy gets called into question when competitors provide privacy protections that Google does not. Whether or not Google will eventually be shamed into abiding by Do Not Track, the company is looking to fill other positions that underscore its commitment to privacy. These include: Privacy Engineer, Product Manager, Privacy, or Technical Program Manager, Ads Privacy Policy.

Google emphasizes the significance of this last position because whoever fills it will influence the company's advertising business practices. "For many users, advertising is where the rubber hits the road, because misuse of user information for advertising purposes creates a strongly negative user experience," the job posting says.

The formation of a Privacy Red Team may be noteworthy, but Google's privacy pacesetter is likely to continue to be its ad team.

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
News
Former CISA Director Chris Krebs Discusses Risk Management & Threat Intel
Kelly Sheridan, Staff Editor, Dark Reading,  2/23/2021
Edge-DRsplash-10-edge-articles
Security + Fraud Protection: Your One-Two Punch Against Cyberattacks
Joshua Goldfarb, Director of Product Management at F5,  2/23/2021
News
Cybercrime Groups More Prolific, Focus on Healthcare in 2020
Robert Lemos, Contributing Writer,  2/22/2021
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon Contest
Write a Caption, Win an Amazon Gift Card! Click Here
Latest Comment: This comment is waiting for review by our moderators.
Current Issue
2021 Top Enterprise IT Trends
We've identified the key trends that are poised to impact the IT landscape in 2021. Find out why they're important and how they will affect you today!
Flash Poll
Building the SOC of the Future
Building the SOC of the Future
Digital transformation, cloud-focused attacks, and a worldwide pandemic. The past year has changed the way business works and the way security teams operate. There is no going back.
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2021-25284
PUBLISHED: 2021-02-27
An issue was discovered in through SaltStack Salt before 3002.5. salt.modules.cmdmod can log credentials to the info or error log level.
CVE-2021-3144
PUBLISHED: 2021-02-27
In SaltStack Salt before 3002.5, eauth tokens can be used once after expiration. (They might be used to run command against the salt master or minions.)
CVE-2021-3148
PUBLISHED: 2021-02-27
An issue was discovered in SaltStack Salt before 3002.5. Sending crafted web requests to the Salt API can result in salt.utils.thin.gen_thin() command injection because of different handling of single versus double quotes. This is related to salt/utils/thin.py.
CVE-2021-3151
PUBLISHED: 2021-02-27
i-doit before 1.16.0 is affected by Stored Cross-Site Scripting (XSS) issues that could allow remote authenticated attackers to inject arbitrary web script or HTML via C__MONITORING__CONFIG__TITLE, SM2__C__MONITORING__CONFIG__TITLE, C__MONITORING__CONFIG__PATH, SM2__C__MONITORING__CONFIG__PATH, C__M...
CVE-2021-3197
PUBLISHED: 2021-02-27
An issue was discovered in SaltStack Salt before 3002.5. The salt-api's ssh client is vulnerable to a shell injection by including ProxyCommand in an argument, or via ssh_options provided in an API request.