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Congress Eyes Latest Google Privacy Rumpus

Add whiplash to the pain Google's Washington team may be feeling after the search giant's privacy policies came under fire again on Friday.

Two weeks after she summoned them to the Hill to explain Google's new privacy policy, Rep. Mary Bono Mack, R-Calif., wants representatives to brief her on reports that the company bypassed privacy controls in order to track people online.

"Even if unintentional, as the company claims, these types of incidents continue to create consumer concerns about how their personal information is used and shared," Bono Mack said in a statement. "Companies need to be open about what they're collecting, and how that information is used. Just as importantly, this needs to be clearly communicated to consumers."

The Wall Street Journal reported on Friday that Google and some other advertising companies used tracking cookies that circumvented privacy controls on Apple's Web browser.

Google has disabled the feature but says it was simply designed to allow Google users who signed-in to see personalized content.

That hasn't stopped a storm of criticism even as the company continues to face concerns over its new, streamlined privacy policies.

A spokesman for the Center for Democracy and Technology said such a misstep is unacceptable.

"While we take Google's assertion at face value that it was not their intent to track users in this way, we are perplexed how this decision evaded Google's internal design and review process," Brock Meeks said in a statement. "After a several recent missteps--and two new reboots on privacy-by-design--this should never have happened."

And others in the tech industry fear the repeated controversies could lead to increased congressional scrutiny and regulation of all tech companies.

"Given that Google has a track record of violating user privacy, from its wi-fi surveillance to the Buzz Settlement to the controversy over its recent privacy policy changes, the search giant's latest transgression could have profound implications for everyone in the industry," said Jonathan Zuck, president of the Association for Competitive Technology.

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