State attorneys general: Google privacy changes appear to harm consumers


Google co-founder Larry Page at a news conference June 12, 2007. (Paul Sakuma/Associated Press)

In a letter to CEO Larry Page, the state attorneys general said the plan to begin sharing consumer data across Google’s services on March 1 “forces these consumers to allow information across all of these products to be shared, without giving them the proper ability to opt out.”

The law enforcement officials said users may want to keep their Web searching history separate from information they get from Gmail or YouTube. But for users signed on to those services, that data will be blended by the search giant to serve up ads better tailored to users preferences.

Google has defended its plans, which have raised concerns among European regulators and privacy groups.

“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,” Google said in a statement. “Of course we are happy to discuss this approach with regulators globally.”

The company says a user can still search or watch videos anonymously. But the state attorneys general questioned the options offered to users.

“It rings hollow to call their ability to exit the Google products ecosystem a ‘choice’ in an Internet economy where the clear majority of all Internet users use — and frequently rely on — at least one Google product on a regular basis,” the state attorneys general wrote to Page.

And they said the costs to switch e-mail and document applications could be enormous for businesses and government offices that use Google apps.

They requested a meeting with Page to explain the privacy policies and an answer to their letter by Feb. 29.

The letter was signed by, among others, Maryland attorney general Douglas Gansler, California’s Kamala Harris and New York’s Eric Schneiderman.

Related:

Google tracks user activities across products, no opt-out

Privacy problems pile up for Google

Android users most affected by Google privacy changes

Cecilia Kang is a staff writer covering the business of media and entertainment.
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