Google is defending its proposed changes to its privacy policies against bipartisan concern on Capitol Hill, saying that it still gives consumers control and many tools to manage their privacy.
Google said last week that while it is streamlining privacy policies, it also will track and collect data about users as they move from one Google service to another.
"We believe that the relevant issue is whether users have choices about how their data is collected and used," Google Public Policy Director Pablo Chavez wrote in a letter Monday to lawmakers.
House lawmakers from both parties, however, have raised concerns about the changes, including why Google is not offering users an opportunity to opt out of being tracked while using all of Google's services.
Google argued in its letter that the company is not collecting any new information and still provides users with many tools to manage the level of privacy they want to have while using Google products. Chavez noted, for example, that if users have chosen to opt out of receiving targeted ads, that preference will not change.
"We give users choice and control over how they use our products. People can use many of our services, including Search, Maps, Google News, YouTube and more, without logging into their Google Account, or creating one in the first place," Chavez said.
Some of the lawmakers who wrote Google last week say they are not satisfied with the company's explanation. "Google did a little tap dancing in the letter, and Chairman Bono Mack intends to aggressively pursue the 'opt out' question in our briefing with the company later this week," said Ken Johnson, a spokesman for Rep. Mary Bono Mack, R-Calif. She chairs the Energy and Commerce subcommittee with jurisdiction over consumer privacy issues and plans to meet privately later this week with Google representatives to discuss its privacy changes.
And Rep. Edward Markey, D-Mass., a senior Energy and Commerce member, said Google has yet to satisfy his concerns. "Sharing users' personal information across its products may make good business sense for Google, but it undermines privacy safeguards for consumers," Markey said in a statement. "Despite Google's recent response, it still appears that consumers will not be able to completely opt-out of data collection and information sharing among Google's services. Congress and consumers need more details, and I look forward to meeting with Google to get clarification about what the options are for consumers who wish to say no to these new changes."
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