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Author Topic: 36 State Attorneys General want to meet with Google over privacy concerns  (Read 2603 times)


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Back in the days of computer bulletin boards, there was an understanding among most BBS sysops that operating an online service established a social contract between you and your membership. And this contract said that just because you owned "the bat, the ball, and the field" didn't automatically give you the right to make up all the rules.

That was the theory anyway.

Apparently that's a theory some of today's big online players don't subscribe to. But in Google's case, they might be in for a lesson. Because concerns about some of Google's recent policy changes - and their snarky suggestion those who don't like it should go elsewhere has provoked some attention on the State level.


First the Feds, and now thirty-six state Attorneys General, are voicing concern over Google's new privacy (or lack thereof) policy. In a multi-page letter dated February 22, 2012, the AGs cut right to the chase:

Google’s new privacy policy is troubling for a number of reasons. On a fundamental level, the policy appears to invade consumer privacy by automatically sharing personal information consumers input into one Google product with all Google products. 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. 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. It rings hollow to call their ability to exit the Google products ecosystem a “choice” in an Internet economy where the clear majority of all Internet users use – and frequently rely on – at least one Google product on a regular basis.

Especially interesting was this paragraph where the AGs remind Google that the somewhat childish excuse many dotcom businesses offer which says "we know what we said before but we've since changed our minds" doesn't quite fly in legal circles. By setting certain expectations over an extended period of time, Google may have painted itself into a corner (emphasis added):

We Attorneys General are also concerned that Google’s new privacy policy goes against a respect for privacy that Google has carefully cultivated as a way to attract consumers. Google boasts that it puts a premium on offering users “meaningful and fine-grained choices over the use of their personal information,” developing its products and services in ways that prevent personal information from being “held hostage.” It has made these and other privacy-respecting representations repeatedly over the years, and many consumers have chosen to use Google products over other products because of these representations. Now these same consumers are having their personal information “held hostage” within the Google ecosystem.

It will be interesting to see how Google responds - and even more interesting, how this ultimately plays out in the coming months.

Full text of the letter in PDF format can be downloaded here.



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"That's a Lot of Top Level Lawyers. Don't Make Them Angry. You wouldn't like it when that many Top Level Lawyers get angry!"   :D