Saturday, February 4, 2012

Lawmakers Press Google On New Privacy Policy | Fox News

Lawmakers press Google on new privacy policy

Pressure is building on Google. On Friday, the European Union asked Google to the delay the rollout of its new privacy policy, scheduled for March 1, until the E.U. can work out whether it is in line with Europe's data protection laws. 

This issue is also gaining traction on Capitol Hill where lawmakers met behind closed doors on Thursday with Google executives about its controversial plan to cross reference data from consumers.

After the meeting, Congresswoman Mary Bono Mack told USA today that, "It was obvious to me, as I left the room, that this company has established this policy so instead of the consumer being the master of the Internet, Google is the master of the consumer. I think that is just wrong."

Anyone who uses Gmail knows that when you sign in, users are being asked to review and accept the new privacy policy. Google says its goal is to consolidate and simplify its privacy policy over dozens of web services. By aggregating or pulling together your search history, and information from your accounts, analysts say Google believes it can offer an improved service.

"If Google knows that I'm searching for a hybrid vehicle…why would it serve up an ad for say a big gas guzzling full size pickup when in fact I'm not in the market for that," Sam Diaz, with ZDNet, told Fox News.

But some lawmakers argue that Google is building an online profile about its users. They question whether web searches about medical treatment or a serious illness should be tracked in the first place. They argue Google could do a better job educating consumers about how to opt out of data collection. When Google was pressed, lawmakers, including Congressman Cliff Stearns, learned that hitting delete is not as final as you think.

"We just had a hearing where we brought Google in and we talked to them about when a person deletes information from Google mail. What happens is it goes into the trash, but it still remains in the trash for about 60 days," Stearns explained.

And Stearns says Google should be more transparent. "With the Internet you can tailor much more clearly and precisely. It has its upside and the downside is a lot of the consumers don't know what's being collected and when it's collected and I think they should know."

In a 13-page letter to Congress at the end of January, Google said "We believe that the relevant issue is whether users have choices about how their data is collected and used. Google's privacy policy – like that of other companies – is a document that applies to all consumer using our products and services…We have built meaningful privacy controls into our products, and we are committed to continue offering those choices in the future."

Fox News Chief Intelligence Correspondent Catherine Herridge's bestselling book "The Next Wave: On the Hunt for al Qaeda's American Recruits" was published by Crown on June 21st. It draws on her reporting for Fox News into al-Awlaki and his new generation of recruits -- al Qaeda 2.0. It is the first book to full investigate al-Awlaki's American life, his connections to the hijackers, and how the cleric double crossed the FBI after Sept. 11.

Brandon Bevis

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