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    USA Today: Moves afoot to limit tracking of Web users

    USA Today reports on how companies such as Google and Facebook are reacting to changes proposed in the European Union that would limit tracking of individuals’ online activities:

    They may be battling each other tooth-and-nail to win over online advertisers. But Google and Facebook are on the same side when it comes to opposing new data-handling privacy laws fast-gelling in Europe and the U.S.

    On Wednesday, the European Union formally proposed strict rules that could restrict much of the systematic tracking and profiling Google and Facebook routinely do of Internet users, as part of delivering targeted ads to them.

    If Europe’s new rules are implemented as expected in 2013, the tech rivals could face hefty fines, up to 2% of annual revenue, for any violations. In Google’s case that translates into a maximum penalty of $800 million.

    On Tuesday, Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg delivered a statistics-filled speech at a tech conference in Munich outlining how Europe’s proposed rules are very likely to stymie the global economy. […]

    Meanwhile, refinements announced this week by Google and Facebook, about how each tracks and profiles Internet users, added heat to the domestic debate over the need for new data privacy rules here in the U.S.

    Google signaled that it will begin cross-referencing user data compiled from its most popular services, including search, Google Apps, Gmail and YouTube. The stickler: Users won’t be permitted to “opt out” of having their Google activities correlated. […]

    Meanwhile, the non-profit group SafeGov, which monitors security issues for federal, state and local government agencies, is alarmed that Google’s new policy could put workers who use Google Applications for Government, a paid service, at heightened risk. […]

    Google Vice President Amit Singh says Google’s new privacy policy for consumer data is superceded by data privacy provisions in contracts with government agencies and other organization who use the paid version of Google Apps.

    “As always, Google will maintain our enterprise customers’ data in compliance with the confidentiality and security obligations provided to their domain,” says Singh.

    But [Jeff Gould, SafeGov security analyst,] checked the city of Los Angeles‘ contract with Google and found that the data-privacy provision referred back to Google’s policy for consumers. “They didn’t think through the consequences for government users,” Gould says.

    Meanwhile, Google is busy fielding inquiries from a handful of politicians who’ve proposed legislation that would restrict online tracking and establish rules for data privacy.

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