Google Privacy Policy Changes Concern Congress, Europe

Despite public concerns from members of Congress and European data-protection authorities, Google isn't going to slow or stop its march to whittle its product privacy policies down into one big umbrella policy.

Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) plans to move forward with its planned privacy policy changes despite resistance from a handful of U.S. congressmen and a European data-protection group.

The search-engine provider, battling Facebook for supremacy of user engagement and advertising on the Web, said it planned to introduce changes to its privacy policies March 1. These changes include consolidating 60 Web services under one blanket policy.

Google will also treat any user with a Google account who signs into search, YouTube, Gmail or its other services as the same individual across those services. Google will also share data between those services.

U.S. Senators who met with Google Deputy General Counsel Mike Yang and Public Policy Director Pablo Chavez Feb. 2 to discuss the planned policy changes did not like what they heard.

Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) said Google "danced around the actual details" and spoke in generalities. Rep. Mary Bono Mack (R-Calif.) said she didn't think the Google officials were "very forthcoming necessarily in what this really means for the safety of our families and our children and ourselves."

Google, which declined to address those allegations specifically, told eWEEK: "Privacy is an important issue, and we're happy to discuss our updated privacy policy with Congress."

Across the Atlantic Ocean, the Article 29 Working Party said it would like Google to "pause" policy changes so the group can comprehend the possible consequences of the policy changes for citizens in the 29 European countries.

Jacob Kohnstamm, chairman of the Article 29 Working Part, said the French data-protection authority (CNIL) will be conversing with Google about the changes so that "there can be no misunderstanding about Google's commitments to information rights of their users and EU citizens."

Google's Global Privacy Counsel Peter Fleischer responded in a blog post: "We briefed most of the members of the working party in the weeks leading up to our announcement. None of them expressed substantial concerns at the time, but of course we're happy to speak with any data-protection authority that has questions."

To wit, Google has no plans to halt or cease its march to changing its privacy policies. However, as Fleischer reiterated in a letter to the working party, Google will not change the way it provides "transparency, control, and security to its users."

Moreover, Google users who choose not to enable this sharing simply can use Search, Maps and YouTube without signing into their Google accounts.