ProPublica wrote on September 23, 2014 about how Stanford promised not to use Google money for privacy research. Later that day, Jennifer Grannick, director at Standford’s Center for Internet and Society (CIS), responded in a blog post that Standford NEVER promised not to use Google money for privacy research. What’s the real story here? Is there a possible conflict of interest?
Google has long been funding Standfor’s CIS, however, for the past two years, CIS’s research on privacy has been more harm than help to Google. In fact, a research from CIS helped discover privacy violations from Google leading to the company paying a $22.5 million fine. According to the ProPublica post, Stanford University promises not to use Google money for privacy research at its Center for Internet and Society, in a legal filing made by the school. On a separate case, ProPublica found documents where the University declared that, “Since 2013, Google funding is specifically designated not [to] be used for CIS’s privacy work,”
Jennifer Grannick’s reply
This was, however, quickly rebutted by Jennifer Grannick when she said in her blog post, “the designation to which we were referring is an internal SLS/CIS budgeting matter, not a policy change, and we very well may decide to ask the company for a gift for privacy research in the future. But in 2013, we had other funding sources for our consumer privacy work, and so we asked for, got, and designated Google money to be used for different projects. ” Jennifer also said that, “funding sources impose no restrictions on CIS researchers. Period. All donors to the Center–and to Stanford more generally–agree to give their funds as unrestricted gifts, for which there is no contractual agreement and no promised products, results, or deliverable. Our policies are crystal clear on that. ”