Lawmakers Crank Up the Heat on Google

Search giant has until Feb. 16 to respond

The fallout over Google's new privacy policy is mounting in Congress. Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), co-chair of the bipartisan Congressional Privacy Caucus, said Thursday he plans to ask the Federal Trade Commission whether Google's new privacy policy changes violate the company's settlement with the agency.

Markey is one of eight members Thursday that fired off a letter to Google's CEO Larry Page with a long list of questions about what the search giant is doing to protect consumers' privacy rights.

All except one of the eight is a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, including ranking member Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.), Joe Barton (R-Texas), Diana DeGette (D-Colo.), Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) and G.K. Butterfield (D-N.C.). Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) is not a member of the committee, but she represents the district where YouTube is headquartered.

Since Google announced Tuesday it was consolidating its privacy practices into one main policy allowing it to track users across all its products and services, lawmakers and public interest groups raised alarms.

In the letter, lawmakers stressed the importance of Google allowing consumers the ability to opt out of the policy, which goes into effect March 1.

"We believe that consumers should have the ability to opt out of data collection when they are not comfortable with a company's terms of service and that the ability to exercise that choice should be simple and straightforward," wrote the lawmakers.

Google has until Feb. 16 to respond to questions about how it will use the information it collects, who has access to it, whether it will be sold, how long Google will keep the data, whether there are specific provisions to protect children and teens, and how Android users will be affected. 


As promised, Markey and Rep. Joe Barton (R-Tex.), co-chairs of the Congressional Privacy Caucus sent a letter Friday to FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz. In the letter, the duo called on the FTC to investigate whether Google's impending change in its privacy policy violates its settlement with the FTC. "This new policy and omission of a consumer opt-out option on a product-by-product basis raises a number of important privacy concerns," Markey and Barton wrote. 


Publish date: January 26, 2012 © 2020 Adweek, LLC. - All Rights Reserved and NOT FOR REPRINT