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Consumer Groups Say Commerce Subcommittee Should Hold Public Hearing on Google’s Privacy Plans, Not Closed-Door Briefing

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Fri, Feb 24, 2012 at 10:58 am

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Consumer Groups Say Commerce Subcommittee Should Hold Public Hearing on Google’s Privacy Plans, Not Closed-Door Briefing

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Five consumer and privacy groups today joined in sending a letter to the House Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade calling for public hearings on Google planned privacy changes, rather than a secret briefing.

The letter to Rep. Bono Mack, (R-CA) Chair and Rep. G.K. Butterfield, (D-NC) Ranking Member said:

“We understand that you are planning to hold another closed-door briefing session about Google’s March 1 planned changes. While we very much appreciate your ongoing interest in this issue, we strongly object to a second secret meeting with Google. There is absolutely no reason that there could not be a public hearing. Even Google is committed to transparency.”

Signing the letter were Marc Rotenberg of the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), Jeff Chester of the Center for Digital Democracy (CDD), John M. Simpson of Consumer Watchdog, Susan Grant of the Consumer Federation of America (CFA) and Ed Mierzwinski of the US Public Interest Research Groups (PIRG).

Click here to read the letter.

“We also strongly recommend that Google be told to suspend the planned March 1 changes until (1) a public hearing occurs and (2) a determination is made by the Federal Trade Commission as to whether Google’s changes comply with the 2011 Consent Order,” the letter said.The letter noted significant developments since Google announced intention to change its privacy policy and data handling policies:

- Members of Congress of both parties have expressed objection to the proposed changes

- Thirty-six Attorneys Generals have also pointed to problems for Android users

- Technical experts have found that Google bypassed privacy settings in both the Safari and the Internet Explorer browser

- The federal government has determined that the proposed changes in Google’s terms of service would violate privacy safeguards for users of Google services in the federal government

- The top Justice Minister in Europe has asked the company to pause pending a determination as to whether the changes comply with European privacy law

- And the Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights, was announced by the White House yesterday.

“Google’s widely touted notification efforts are entirely beside the point, the letter concluded. “It doesn’t matter how loudly Google speaks; what matters is what Google plans to do with the data it previously collected on Internet users after March 1st.”

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This post was written by:

John M. Simpson

- who has written 361 posts on Inside Google.

John M. Simpson is a leading voice on technological privacy and stem cell research issues. His investigations this year of Google’s online privacy practices and book publishing agreements triggered intense media scrutiny and federal interest in the online giant’s business practices. His critique of patents on human embryonic stem cells has been key to expanding the ability of American scientists to conduct stem cell research. He has ensured that California’s taxpayer-funded stem cell research will lead to broadly accessible and affordable medicine and not just government-subsidized profiteering. Prior to joining Consumer Watchdog in 2005, he was executive editor of Tribune Media Services International, a syndication company. Before that, he was deputy editor of USA Today and editor of its international edition. Simpson taught journalism a Dublin City University in Ireland, and consulted for The Irish Times and The Gleaner in Jamaica. He served as president of the World Editors Forum. He holds a B.A. in philosophy from Harpur College of SUNY Binghamton and was a Gannett Fellow at the Center for Asian and Pacific Studies at the University of Hawaii. He has an M.A. in Communication Management from USC’s Annenberg School for Communication.

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