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Google to Talk Privacy Policy in Private with Congress

Danny Goodwin
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google-surveillance-2-lThe great Google privacy policy change freak out continues. In the latest developments, Google has defended its changes in a letter to Congress, and will send two Google reps to Washington, D.C., to give a “closed-door briefing” on the new policy.

It all started with a post on the Google Public Policy Blog yesterday, in which Pablo Chavez, Google’s public policy director, reminded Congress that while Google is combining more than 60 separate policies into one simple and understandable policy beginning in March for its millions of users, Google hasn’t changed any of its practices. Chavez emphasized five areas that aren’t changing:

  • Your private information remains private. 
  • You can continue to search, watch videos on YouTube, or get driving directions on Google Maps without signing in
  • You can use Google Dashboard and Ads Preferences Manager to manage your data. 
  • Google won’t sell personal information to advertisers. 
  • You can take your Google data via data liberation and close your Google account.

Google has also sent a letter to House of Representative members Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.), Joe Barton (R-Texas), Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), G.K. Butterfield (D-N.C.), Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), Edward Markey (D-Mass.), Diana DeGette (D-Colo.), and Jackie Speier (D-Calif.), giving an overview of why Google has changed its privacy policy. Google further explained that the privacy policy is changing in part because whenever Google launched a new service, the company added a new privacy policy – or, when Google acquired a company, an existing policy was sometimes left in place.

Google said that its privacy policy has restricted its ability to combine information for two services: web history and YouTube.

“For example, if a user is signed in 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,” Chavez wrote in the letter.

Though Google CEO Larry Page was invited, Chavez and Mike Yang, Google’s deputy general counsel, will meet with Rep. Mary Bono Mack (R-Calif.) tomorrow, ironically, in private, USA Today reported. Mack also pointed to the “no opt out” issue as a concern.

"These changes might not otherwise be troubling but for one significant change to your terms of service: Google will not permit users to opt out of this information collection and sharing across platforms and devices," Mack said.

Google has been collecting the same data for years, and Google has mentioned the ability to combine information with other Google services in policies dating back to 2005. But nobody reads privacy policies.

Is Google totally freaking you out? Kashmir Hill of Forbes has created the below video, fittingly titled “Google’s Privacy Policy Change Is Freaking Me Out” featuring two users discussing Google’s privacy policies. Among the highlights:

“Oh yeah. I mean, you pay Google for convenience, right?”

“Uh, no. It’s all free.”

“Oh.”

Check it out:

Google today has posted some "myths and facts" about Google's privacy policy put out by the likes of Microsoft and FairSearch.org. Among them: 

Myth: In 2011, Google made $36 billion selling information about users like you.

Fact: Google does not sell, trade or rent personally identifiable user information. Advertisers can run ads on Google that are matched to search keywords, or use our services to show ads based on anonymous data, such as your location or the websites you’ve visited.

Image credit: paidContent


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