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Consumer Watchdog Praises State Attorneys General Action Against Google

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Wed, Feb 22, 2012 at 12:47 pm

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Consumer Watchdog Praises State Attorneys General Action Against Google

SANTA MONICA, CA — Consumer Watchdog today praised state attorneys general for voicing their concerns about Google’s changes in privacy polices and asking for a meeting with the Internet giant’s CEO Larry Page.

Attorneys general from 35 other states and territories joined Maryland Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler in sending the letter.  They gave Google a week to reply.

“I am deeply concerned about Google’s effort to push a major privacy change on consumers without giving them the choice to opt in, or at a minimum the opportunity to opt out,” said Attorney General Gansler. “After years of touting its commitment to meaningful privacy choices for its users, Google should abide by its claimed privacy principles and let consumers decide whether to say ‘No thanks’ to a new policy.”

“We’re pleased the state attorneys general have weighed in on this important issue,” said John M. Simpson, Consumer Watchdog’s Privacy Policy director. “Google has spun the new polices as ‘improving user experience.’  In fact it’s about amassing even greater digital dossiers about you.  You’re not Google’s customer, you’re Google’s product.”

Click here to read the 36 attorneys general letter.

Google’s new policy, effective March 1, will combine more than 60 privacy policies across services including Search, Gmail and YouTube.  Previously, data was kept separate in each of Google’s services. These new combined digital dossiers are tremendously powerful for targeting ads, something that Google does not mention, Consumer Watchdog said.

Consumer Watchdog has also called on the House Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade Subcommittee to hold hearings on Google’s new privacy policy.  The group said the new policy violates Google’s “Buzz” Consent Agreement with the Federal Trade Commission.

Last week in the wake of a Stanford University researcher’s study that found Google has been violating people’s online privacy choices, Consumer Watchdog said the Internet giant was lying to users and called for the Federal Trade Commission to act.

The states and territories signing on to this letter include: Arizona, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Guam, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, N. Mariana Islands, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, the Virgin Islands, and Washington.

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This post was written by:

John M. Simpson

- who has written 350 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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