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Google faces questions from Congress; session should be public

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Fri, Feb 17, 2012 at 3:12 pm

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Google faces questions from Congress; session should be public

Google is facing more questions from Congress. The Internet giant’s deliberate circumventing of privacy settings in Apple’s Safari browser — that’s the one used on iPhones and iPads — is prompting the outrage. The deliberate privacy breach was discovered by Stanford University researcher Jonathan Mayer and reported first by The Wall Street Journal.

Just a few weeks back Google was under scrutiny over its plans to combine privacy polices and share users’ data across its various services. Rep. Mary Bono Mack (R-CA), chair of the House Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade Subcommittee, called in Google Executives Pablo Chavez and Michael Yang for a closed-door briefing.

We protested that it should be open, but didn’t carry the day. After the session, Rep. Bono Mack told reporters that she wasn’t impressed with Google’s explanations.

We then wrote a letter to her and ranking member G.K. Butterfield (D-NC) urging them to call CEO Larry Page before the subcommittee.
With Google’s latest privy breach, Bono Mack issued news release titled, ” Bono Mack Calls Google Back to Capitol Hill for Explanation of Latest Privacy Flap.” It said:

“Google has some tough new questions to answer in the wake of this latest privacy flap, and that’s why I am asking them to come in for another briefing. Even if unintentional, as the company claims, these types of incidents continue to create consumer concerns about how their personal information is used and shared. Companies need to be open about what they’re collecting, and how that information is used. Just as importantly, this needs to be clearly communicated to consumers. While I am determined to get to the bottom of this, some of it simply may be ‘growing pains.’ That’s why it’s important to sit down and figure out how we can better protect consumer privacy in the future.”

Not clear to me was whether she wants another closed-door meeting, so I called her office and asked. A spokesperson explained that they are still working out the details, who would come, whether it would be open or what. At

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this point, the spokesperson said, it could go either way.

I suspect

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it’s no surprise that I made a strong pitch to make sure it’s public and that CEO Page does the explaining.

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This post was written by:

John M. Simpson

- who has written 362 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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