Google Policy Changes Flout Consumer Privacy, Say AGs

The National Association of Attorneys General said it is concerned about the effect Google's streamlined privacy policy changes will impact its millions of users.

Roughly three dozen state attorneys general have written a letter to Google expressing concern over the search engine company's plans to distill 60 product privacy policies under one blanket policy.

The National Association of Attorneys General is concerned with Google's desire to have applications such as Search, Gmail and YouTube share user data with each other. Google wants to affix identities to its users to offer more personalized search and other Web services. This will also improve the company's ad targeting capabilities.

These policy changes will go into effect March 1 despite complaints from Congress, privacy advocates and now the AGs who claim that the changes violate consumer privacy.

"Consumers have diverse interests and concerns, and may want the information in their Web History to be kept separate from the information they exchange via Gmail," the AGs wrote in a letter addressed to Google CEO Larry Page Feb. 22.

"Likewise, consumers may be comfortable with Google knowing their Search queries but not with it knowing their whereabouts, yet the new privacy policy appears to give them no choice in the matter, further invading their privacy."

Google doesn't see it that way.

"Our updated privacy policy will make our privacy practices easier to understand, and it reflects our desire to create a seamless experience for our signed-in users," a Google spokesperson told eWEEK. "We've undertaken the most extensive notification effort in Google's history, and we're continuing to offer choice and control over how people use our services."

The changes are non-negotiable for users who wish to continue using most Google services while signed into their Google accounts. However, users may still access Google Search, Maps and YouTube without signing into a Google account.

Google said users who don't want to abide by Google's new policy changes may exit the services, a choice AGs claimed is not really an option at a time when most users use Google as their primary point for Web services.