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Google's privacy policy under fire from attorneys general

February 22, 2012|By Jessica Guynn
  • Google, whose Venice office is pictured above, is under fire from attorneys general including Kamala Harris for its new privacy policy scheduled to roll out next week.
Google, whose Venice office is pictured above, is under fire from attorneys… (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles…)

Kamala Harris joined 35 attorneys general objecting to a new privacy policy that Google plans to roll out next week.

The National Assn. of Attorneys General says the new policy invades consumer privacy by automatically sharing with all Google services personal information that users give to just one service.

“The new policy forces consumers to allow information across all of Google’s products to be shared without giving them the proper ability to opt out,” the association said in a letter to Google Chief Executive Larry Page.

The attorneys general have asked to meet with Page.

Harris declined to comment on the letter during a news conference Wednesday.

Google’s new privacy policy, which it announced Jan. 24, is slated to go into effect March 1. It will create a single privacy policy for all of its services such as Gmail, Maps and YouTube. That means Google will be able to include the videos a consumer watches on YouTube when it delivers search results, for example.

Google says the policy will be easier for consumers to understand.

“We’re continuing to offer choice and control over how people use our services,” said Google spokesman Chris Gaither.

Consumer watchdogs don’t agree. The Electronic Privacy Information Center has sued the U.S. Federal Trade Commission to try to force the agency to take action against Google’s new privacy policy. A federal judge is considering the FTC’s motion to dismiss the case. The agency settled with Google last year over charges it shared user data without permission. The 20-year settlement resulted from a complaint that EPIC filed in 2010 over Google’s now defunct Buzz social network.

Jeffrey Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy, filed a complaint with the FTC over the policy Wednesday, saying Google is changing its privacy policy to make more money from online advertising. He’s asking the FTC to sue Google to stop the Internet search giant from rolling out the new privacy policy.

"Google presents the information in a deceptive way that suggests consumers will benefit from the new policy," Chester wrote in his complaint.

The European Union is also reviewing Google’s new privacy policy. It asked Google to delay rolling out the policy while it’s under review. Google declined.

RELATED:

Watchdog sues FTC over new Google privacy policy

Federal court speeds up case over Google privacy policy

Google updates policy to track users across all of its services

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