Google "Undermines Privacy Safeguards" Says Lawmaker

  |  February 1, 2012   |  Comments

Co-chair of the House Privacy Caucus wants more details from Google regarding privacy policy changes.

A quick response from Google to a request for information from legislators about its recent privacy policy changes prompted criticism from a vocal member of the Bipartisan Congressional Privacy Caucus. In a somewhat simple letter addressed to the eight congressmen who inquired last week about Google’s new policy, the company stressed it is not collecting new or added user data and will not sell personally identifiable information.

"Despite Google's recent response, it still appears that consumers will not be able to completely opt-out of data collection and information sharing among Google’s services. Congress and consumers need more details, and I look forward to meeting with Google to get clarification about what the options are for consumers who wish to say no to these new changes," said Rep. Ed Markey, co-chair of the privacy caucus, in a statement sent to ClickZ News.

Google's January 30 response also reiterated benefits of the alterations for users, and suggested that "misconceptions" about the changes needed correction.

Last week Google said that starting March 1, 60 of the more than 70 privacy policies associated with its various platforms and services will be boiled down to one, simpler policy. Through the consolidation, cross-platform data tracking that already exists for Google is made more transparent to users.

"In short, we'll treat you as a single user across all our products, which will mean a simpler, more intuitive Google experience," wrote Alma Whitten, director of privacy, product and engineering at Google in a post introducing the policy changes.

The announcement triggered a letter from eight House Members, including Joe Barton, Edward Markey, Jackie Speier, and Cliff Stearns, each of whom have sponsored privacy bills. The letter asked why Google made the changes, and requested responses to questions about what types of data the company will track and across which platforms, as well as how the data is protected and how it is used. Google's January 30 response stated that in particular, the changes allow it to combine search history with YouTube data.

Before, "if a user is signed in and searching Google for cooking recipes, our current privacy policies wouldn't let us recommend cooking videos when she visits YouTube based on her searches - even though she was signed into the same Google Account when using both Google Search and YouTube."

The company's less-than-detailed response may not satisfy lawmakers and privacy advocates seeking explicit information about what data Google collects and how it is used.

Also, they may criticize Google's approach to enabling opt-out from tracking. "Individuals don't need to sign in to use many of our services including Search, Maps, and YouTube. If a user is signed in, she can still edit or turn off her search history, switch Gmail chat to - off the record, control the way Google tailors ads to her interests using our Ads Preferences Manager, use Incognito mode on Chrome, or use any of the other privacy tools we offer," wrote the company in its response.

"Sharing users’ personal information across its products may make good business sense for Google, but it undermines privacy safeguards for consumers," stated Markey.

In their inquiry letter to Google, the lawmakers noted, "We believe that consumers should have the ability to opt-out of data collection when they are not comfortable with a company's terms of service and that the ability to exercise that choice should be simple and straightforward."

ClickZ Live Chicago Join the Industry's Leading eCommerce & Direct Marketing Experts in Chicago
ClickZ Live Chicago (Nov 3-6) will deliver over 50 sessions across 4 days and 10 individual tracks, including Data-Driven Marketing, Social, Mobile, Display, Search and Email. Check out the full agenda and register by Friday, Oct 3 to take advantage of Early Bird Rates!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kate Kaye

Kate Kaye was Managing Editor at ClickZ News until October 2012. As a daily reporter and editor for the original news source, she covered beats including digital political campaigns and government regulation of the online ad industry. Kate is the author of Campaign '08: A Turning Point for Digital Media, the only book focused on the paid digital media efforts of the 2008 presidential campaigns. Kate created ClickZ's Politics & Advocacy section, and is the primary contributor to the one-of-a-kind section. She began reporting on the interactive ad industry in 1999 and has spoken at several events and in interviews for television, radio, print, and digital media outlets. You can follow Kate on Twitter at @LowbrowKate.

COMMENTSCommenting policy

comments powered by Disqus

Get the ClickZ Marketing newsletter delivered to you. Subscribe today!

COMMENTS

UPCOMING EVENTS

Featured White Papers

IBM: Social Analytics - The Science Behind Social Media Marketing

IBM Social Analytics: The Science Behind Social Media Marketing
80% of internet users say they prefer to connect with brands via Facebook. 65% of social media users say they use it to learn more about brands, products and services. Learn about how to find more about customers' attitudes, preferences and buying habits from what they say on social media channels.

An Introduction to Marketing Attribution: Selecting the Right Model for Search, Display & Social Advertising

An Introduction to Marketing Attribution: Selecting the Right Model for Search, Display & Social Advertising
If you're considering implementing a marketing attribution model to measure and optimize your programs, this paper is a great introduction. It also includes real-life tips from marketers who have successfully implemented attribution in their organizations.

Resources

Jobs

    • Recent Grads: Customer Service Representative
      Recent Grads: Customer Service Representative (Agora Financial) - BaltimoreAgora Financial, one of the nation's largest independent publishers...
    • Managing Editor
      Managing Editor (Common Sense Publishing) - BaltimoreWE’RE HIRING: WE NEED AN AMAZING EDITOR TO POLISH WORLD-CLASS CONTENT   The Palm...
    • Senior Paid Search & Advertising Manager
      Senior Paid Search & Advertising Manager (Smarty Had A Party) - St. LouisCompany Description: A warm, loving, [slightly wacky] startup, we view...