John Paczkowski

Recent Posts by John Paczkowski

State AGs Want Google to Address New Privacy Policy

Google says its new privacy policy will dramatically improve its users’ online experience, but government regulators aren’t so sure. On Wednesday an alliance of 36 state attorneys general sent a letter to Google CEO Larry Page demanding assurances that the new policy, which unifies Google’s services under a single user agreement and grants the company greater license to share user account information between them, doesn’t jeopardize consumer privacy.

“Until now, users of Google’s many products could use different products in different ways, expecting that information they provide for one product, such as YouTube, would not be synthesized with information they provide for another product, such as Gmail and Maps,” the AGs wrote. “The new policy forces these consumers to allow information across all of these products to be shared, without giving them the proper ability to opt out.”

A harsh indictment of the privacy policy changes, which are due to go into effect on March 1. And the AGs didn’t stop there. They went on to question Google’s motives for adjusting its policy and raise an eyebrow over the company’s history of altruistic posturing over privacy.

“We … are also concerned that Google’s new privacy policy goes against a respect for privacy that Google has carefully cultivated as a way to attract consumers. Google boasts that it puts a premium on offering users ‘meaningful and fine-grained choices over the use of their personal information,’ developing its products and services in ways that prevent personal information from being ‘held hostage.’ It has made these and other privacy-respecting representations repeatedly over the years, and many consumers have chosen to use Google products over other products because of these representations. Now these same consumers are having their personal information ‘held hostage’ within the Google ecosystem.”

The implication here is clear: Google has been less than forthright in its representations about privacy, and the public needs more assurances about how their personal information is shared across its services.

Google for its part continues to defend its plans, insisting these new privacy settings are in everyone’s best interests.

“Our updated Privacy Policy will make our privacy practices easier to understand, and it reflects our desire to create a seamless experience for our signed-in users,” a company spokesperson told AllThingsD. “We’ve undertaken the most extensive notification effort in Google’s history, and we’re continuing to offer choice and control over how people use our services services. Of course we are happy to discuss this approach with regulators globally.”

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