Google’s New Privacy Policy Provokes New Questions

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Members of Congress call for an FTC investigation.

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Three days after Google announced its new privacy policy, at least two members of Congress called on the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to investigate whether the policy violates the terms of a consent agreement between the FTC and Google that bars the company from future privacy misrepresentations.

Google’s new privacy policy, which is set to take effect on March 1st ,  will consolidate its policies across all of its 60+ services, which include GMail, Google+, YouTube, and the Google search engine.  Under the new policy, the company will combine information users provide to one service with information from other services; for example, users who are logged into their Google accounts and are watching Pink music videos on YouTube may see more Pink ads in GMail.  The company will not give users an opt-out option but notes that users do not need to log into their Google account to use many services, including Search, Maps and YouTube.

The changes come less than a year after Google settled with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) over charges that the company “used deceptive tactics and violated its own privacy promises to consumers” with the creation of its now-defunct social network, Google Buzz.

Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA) and Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX), who co-chair the Congressional Bi-partisan Privacy Caucus, have asked the FTC to investigate whether the lack of an opt-out provision in the new privacy policy violates the terms of the consent agreement.  Google has responded by stressing that it provides users with various privacy tools that they can use to keep some of their data secret.