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Timothy B. Lee

Timothy B. Lee

Timothy B. Lee covers technology policy, including copyright and patent law, telecom regulation, privacy, and free speech. He also writes about the economics of technology. He has previously written for Ars Technica and Forbes. You can follow him on Twitter or send him email.

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Andrea Peterson

Andrea Peterson covers technology policy for The Washington Post, with an emphasis on cybersecurity, consumer privacy, transparency, surveillance and open government. She also delves into the societal impacts of technology access and how innovation is intertwined with cultural development.

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Posted at 06:21 PM ET, 01/31/2012

Lawmakers say questions remain about Google’s policy

Lawmakers said Tuesday that they still have questions regarding Google’s privacy policies after receiving an explanatory letter from the company.

Reps. Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.) and Ed Markey (D-Mass.) both said they had lingering questions about the policy, particularly about whether the company will allow its account holders to opt out of data collection and integration between its services.

Stearns praised Google for responding quickly and simplifying its policies, but said that he would like Google to brief lawmakers on its responses before the policy goes into effect March 1.

“[Google] correctly notes in its response that consumers’ ability to opt out, i.e. consumer choice, is ‘at the heart’ of my concerns,” Stearns said in a statement. “Essentially, it appears that the new policy would allow Google to apply information it collects from a signed-in user to Google Search and YouTube. While Google clarifies in the letter a number of ways consumers can control their privacy settings, oftentimes consumers remain automatically logged in to Gmail services.”

In his statement, Markey said that he understands that integrating data makes good business sense for Google, but that he believes it “undermines privacy safeguards” in place for consumers.

“Despite Google’s recent response, it still appears that consumers will not be able to completely opt out of data collection and information sharing among Google’s services,” he said. “Congress and consumers need more details, and I look forward to meeting with Google to get clarification about what the options are for consumers who wish to say no to these new changes.”

The new policy unifies 60 of Google’s services under one privacy policy and integrates data across services associated with Google accounts, such as YouTube and Web search.

Users can still use Google search, YouTube, Maps and other services while logged out.

By  |  06:21 PM ET, 01/31/2012

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