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 Toronto Twitter Canada MD Kirstine Stewart to Keynote Toronto
ClickZ Live Toronto (May 14-16) is a new event addressing the rapidly changing landscape that digital marketers face. The agenda focuses on customer engagement and attaining maximum ROI through online marketing efforts across paid, owned & earned media. Register now and save!

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

ion Interactive Marketing Apps for Landing Pages White Paper

Marketing Apps for Landing Pages White Paper
Marketing apps can elevate a formulaic landing page into a highly interactive user experience. Learn how to turn your static content into exciting marketing apps.

eMarketer: Redefining Mobile-Only Users: Millions Selectively Avoid the Desktop

Redefining 'Mobile-Only' Users: Millions Selectively Avoid the Desktop
A new breed of selective mobile-only consumers has emerged. What are the demos of these users and how and where can marketers reach them?

Jobs

    • Contact Center Professional
      Contact Center Professional (TCC: The Contact Center) - Hunt ValleyLooking to join a workforce that prides themselves on being routine and keeping...
    • Recruitment and Team Building Ambassador
      Recruitment and Team Building Ambassador (Agora Inc.) - BaltimoreAgora, www.agora-inc.com, continues to expand! In order to meet the needs of our...
    • Design and Publishing Specialist
      Design and Publishing Specialist (Bonner and Partners) - BaltimoreIf you’re a hungry self-starter, creative, organized and have an extreme...