Lawmakers’ meeting with Google over privacy spurs more questions

House lawmakers met with Google officials on Thursday to discuss controversial changes to the firm’s privacy policy, with some saying they left the meeting with greater concerns and more questions.

Rep. Mary Bono Mack (R-Calif.), chairwoman of the Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade Subcommittee, said she worried the company’s policy changes weren’t transparent enough and didn’t clearly put users in control. She said it appeared Google also did not quickly delete data upon a user’s request.

Bono Mack said the Federal Trade Commission should investigate whether the firm’s new privacy policy, which combines data across services, violates its privacy settlement with the commission.

About a dozen House members attended the closed-door meeting with Google policy director Pablo Chavez and deputy general counsel Michael Yang.

“Privacy is an important issue, and we’re happy to discuss our updated privacy policy with Congress,” the company said in a statement.

Some lawmakers lauded Google’s privacy dashboard, which shows users what data are being collected.

But several lawmakers, Bono Mack said, asked why the firm didn’t allow users to opt out of the changes that are set to begin March 1. One lawmaker, she said, suggested the company allow users a clear option to decline to participate in the policy that would combine databases across products including Gmail, YouTube, Blogger and the search for signed-in users.

“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,” Bono Mack said. “Does that mean my health information is at risk?”

Google representatives said users can opt out of the privacy policy changes by choosing not to sign into certain services. The company has stressed that users can continue to search and watch YouTube clips without signing in. But users would not be able to use the company’s popular Gmail service.

Related:

Lawmakers press Google on privacy policy

FAQ: Google’s new privacy policy

Cecilia Kang is a senior technology correspondent for The Washington Post.

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