John Paczkowski

Recent Posts by John Paczkowski

Lawmakers: Google Dodging Details on Privacy Issues

Google’s efforts to assuage concerns in Washington over proposed changes to its privacy policy don’t seem to be going well at all.

House lawmakers met with Google Deputy General Counsel Mike Yang and Public Policy Director Pablo Chavez Thursday to discuss new policy that unifies 60 of Google’s services under a single user agreement and grants the company greater license to share user account information between them.

But the closed-door session ended well short of resolution, with at least a few members of the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee that presided over it openly criticizing Google’s explanation for the privacy changes.

“[They] danced around actual details, and instead spoke in generalities, highlighting their efforts to ‘enhance the user experience’,” said Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas.

Subcommittee Chairwoman Mary Bono Mack, R-Calif. was equally critical.

“At the end of the day, ultimately, I don’t think that their answers to us were very forthcoming necessarily in what this really means for the safety of our families and our children and ourselves,” Mack said.

To be fair, Yang and Chavez reportedly did provide a thorough walkthrough of Google’s new privacy settings. But that wasn’t quite what the subcommittee was looking for. What lawmakers really want to understand is how easy or difficult it is for users to protect their privacy and control how their personal information is shared across Google’s services.

“Consumers want to know if they hit the delete button, that something truly is deleted,” said Bono Mack. “The concern is that if I’m logged into Gmail and then forget to log out when I then go to search for information about cervical cancer, my data can then be transported to YouTube. Does that mean my health information is at risk?”

A fair question, and evidently one that’s going to take a few more hearings to get an answer to.

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The problem with the Billionaire Savior phase of the newspaper collapse has always been that billionaires don’t tend to like the kind of authority-questioning journalism that upsets the status quo.

— Ryan Chittum, writing in the Columbia Journalism Review about the promise of Pierre Omidyar’s new media venture with Glenn Greenwald