Several U.S. senators Jan. 26 fired off a bipartisan
letter to Google CEO Larry Page, asking for more information about the search
Google Jan. 24 announced
that it will aggregate 60 of its Web services under
Under this new policy, a user with a Google account
who signs into Google's search, YouTube, Gmail and other applications is treated
as the same individual across all of those services, and data may be shared
between those services. Consumers may not opt out of this change, which goes
into effect March 1.
Pundits seized on this change to argue
that Google is trampling user privacy rights to aggregate user identity to help it better compete with
Facebook for targeted advertising dollars.
Eight U.S. senators took exception to the move. They sent Page their letter
, signed by Reps. Henry A. Waxman, D-Calif.; Cliff Stearns, R-Fla.; Edward J. Markey, D-Mass.; Joe Barton, R-Texas; Diana DeGette, D-Colo.; Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn.; G. K. Butterfield, D-N.C.; and Jackie
The senators are concerned that consumers cannot opt out
of the new policy and wonder whether the plan will adequately protect users'
They asked how the new rules will affect the tens of
millions of users of Android smartphones. Users access a lot of data from
Android phones by signing in with their Google accounts. They are also
concerned about how the revision affects children and teen users of Google services.
"We believe that consumers should have the ability
to opt out of data collection when they are not comfortable with a company's terms
of service and that ability to exercise that choice should be simple and
straightforward," they wrote to Page. They want a
response by the middle of February.
Markey added in a separate statement that he plans to
ask the Federal Trade Commission whether Google's new privacy policies violate its
settlement with the agency. Google in 2011 settled with the FTC over its Google
Buzz social media service, which violated the privacy rights of Gmail users.
part of the settlement, Google agreed not to misrepresent
its privacy practices or change the way it uses or shares consumer data without obtaining consent first.
Google Policy Manager Betsy Masiello sought to clear up
concerns in a corporate blog post
, where she wrote that Google isn't collecting any more data
on users with the policy change, and that it is trying to simplify access to
its products and services.
"You still have choice and control," Masiello
wrote Jan. 26. "You don't need to log in to use many of our services,
including Search, Maps and YouTube."
She added that logged-in users may
still edit or turn off Search history, switch Gmail chat to "off the
record," and control the way Google tailors ads to users' interests, among
other privacy-protection measures.