Five Privacy Groups Urge Congresswoman For Public Hearing On Google Changes

Fri, Feb 24, 2012 at 3:26 pm

    Representatives from five privacy groups Friday sent a letter to Reps. Mary Bono-Mack and G.K Butterfield objecting to a private meeting planned with Google and instead asking for a public hearing on the search giant’s proposed privacy policy changes.

    Rep. Bono-Mack (R-Calif.), is chairwoman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade, and Rep. Butterfield (D-N.C.) is a ranking member. The two have already been part of one private meeting earlier this month with Google concerning planned changes to the search giant’s privacy policies.

    The committee and other members of Congress are slated to hold another meeting Monday and the privacy groups want a chance for consumer advocates and others to voice their opinion in a public forum.

    The letter was signed by Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), Jeffrey Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy (CDD), John Simpson, privacy policy director at Consumer Watchdog, Susan Grant, director of consumer protection at the Consumer Federation of America (CFA), and Ed Mierzwinski, consumer program director for the U.S. Public Interest Research Groups (PIRG).

    In addition to the public hearing, the group leaders also asked for Rep. Bono-Mack and other members of Congress to tell Google “to suspend the March 1 changes in its terms of service until (1) a public hearing occurs and (2) a determination is made by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) as to whether Google’s changes comply with the 2011 consent order.”

    Earlier in the day, a federal court rejected EPIC’s lawsuit against the FTC. The suit sought to compel the agency to enforce its consent order that is part of a 2011 privacy case settlement with Google. The court ruled it had no jurisdiction to force such a move.

    The letter to Rep. Bono-Mack included a list of occurrences since Google announced in January its intent to change its privacy policy, including concerns from various members of Congress, the European Union, 36 state Attorneys Generals,  technical experts, and IT managers.

    The letter is the latest chapter in a flurry of moves to block Google’s privacy policy changes, which go into effect Thursday.

    Reaction across the Internet has been mixed with what seems equal parts of defending Google’s actions to blasting the search giant.

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