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Google defends privacy policy in response to concerns from US lawmakers

Google issued a letter [text; press release] Tuesday in response to concerns raised by members of Congress regarding consumer privacy rights as impacted by the search giant's new privacy policy [corporate website; press release]. In its response Google replied to 11 specific questions posed in a letter sent last week [JURIST report] to CEO Larry Page [NYT backgrounder] by US Representative Edward Markey (D-MA) [official website] and seven other lawmakers. Google's response included a confirmation that no new types of data are going to be collected with the advent of the new privacy policy, a list of those services that can be used without signing into a Google Account, the reasons for data sharing between Google products, and a description of the process for data deletion when a user closes an account, along with background information on the motivation for the policy changes. Google maintains its primary reasons for the new privacy policy are to simplify the policy to make it more understandable for consumers, and to improve the user experience across all Google products. In its letter Google described its consolidation of approximately 70 different privacy policies from its various products into a single policy, noting, "Regulators globally have been calling for shorter, simpler privacy policies." Furthermore the company stated that it will continue to comply with the obligations set out in its settlement with the FTC [JURIST report], including the submission of regular independent reviews of its privacy policies, and did not anticipate violating any terms of the settlement. The new privacy policy is set to go into effect March 1.

Google has had several legal battles in the last year, with consumer privacy rights often at issue. In August the Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] announced that the agency had reached a $500 million settlement [JURIST report] with Google for permitting Canadian pharmaceutical companies to advertise to and target US consumers. In July a federal judge extended settlement negotiations [JURIST report] over a 2005 copyright suit filed against Google over its Google Books [corporate website] book scanning project. Also in July another federal judge ruled that Google could appeal a decision permitting a wiretapping lawsuit [JURIST report] over Google's Street View [corporate website] service to proceed. Google was accused of violating user privacy by using WiFi networks to collect data for the service, a charge that came as a result of a multistate investigation that began in June of 2010. There have been international rulings on the Street View service as well. A Swiss court ruled the service constituted a violation of privacy, while a German court ruled it did not [JURIST reports].

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Paper Chase is JURIST's real-time legal news service, powered by a team of 30 law student reporters and editors led by law professor Bernard Hibbitts at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. As an educational service, Paper Chase is dedicated to presenting important legal news and materials rapidly, objectively and intelligibly in an accessible format.

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