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    Op-Ed at Washington Post: Google’s new privacy policy complicates protecting personal data

    Internet services giant Google has faced much criticism recently for its circumvention of Apple’s Safari web browser’s privacy settings and changes it announced in its privacy policies that will affect users of its services, such as search, Gmail, Google+ and YouTube. Now, the Washington Post’s editorial board writes about Google’s privacy policies:

    LAST YEAR, GOOGLE entered into a settlement with the Federal Trade Commission over allegedly deceptive practices involving its Google Buzz social network. Last month — about the time when the European Commission was contemplating stronger protections for personal data on the Web — the Internet behemoth unveiled a new privacy policy. The announcement has not been universally applauded: The European Union has since asked Google to put the new policy on hold, and a group of Internet privacy advocates filed suit to force FTC scrutiny.

    This week, 36 attorneys general, including those from Maryland and the District of Columbia, raised their voices in complaint, and the Obama administration unfurled a voluntary “consumer bill of rights” that puts Google and others on notice.Come March 1, Google will consolidate the privacy policies for some 60 products and introduce one unified privacy protocol that will allow it to share information across its programs and applications. [...]

    Government agencies and businesses concerned about leaks of confidential information will generally not be subject to the new data mining policy. They typically have the ability to negotiate specific security or privacy settings when they enter into contracts to use Google’s suite of programs and applications. Individual users do not have this option; Google thus far has resisted calls to allow an opt-out for individuals.

    Google argues that users already can control their information through existing tools. Some users can avoid being trailed virtually by logging off of one Google program before using another. But this is cumbersome and defies Google’s stated goal of simplifying the user experience. Most users may welcome the new policy, but for those who do not, Google should work to make it as easy as it now is for business and government entities to shield themselves from unwanted ads or potential security breaches.

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