Republican: Google inviting regulation

GOP Rep. Marsha Blackburn (Tenn.) on Thursday ripped Google for consolidating its privacy policies and said the company is inviting government regulation.

“After all the controversies Google has become entangled, the question people keep asking is — how can we ever begin to trust Google?" Blackburn asked in a statement. 

"I’ve always said private industry needs to take the lead in providing consumer choice and transparency before big government rushes in to regulate. But Google’s move to eradicate consumer choice all together across their various platforms raises additional questions about how the company’s monopoly power might hurt competition and how their action might unilaterally and unnecessarily invite even broader government regulations on everyone else.”

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Google announced on Tuesday it will consolidate the privacy policies of its various services into a single document. The company said the change will make its privacy policy simpler and easier to understand, but many consumers are expressing outrage. 

The changes would allow Google to share information between its services. Users could begin seeing advertisements in Gmail based on videos they watched on YouTube, for example.

In an email to Google users on Thursday, the company said the changes will allow it to tailor its services to individual users.

"If you're signed into Google, we can do things like suggest search queries — or tailor your search results — based on the interests you've expressed in Google+, Gmail, and YouTube," the company explained. "We'll better understand which version of Pink or Jaguar you're searching for and get you those results faster."

In a statement, a Google spokeswoman said the goal of the changes is to make the policy easier to understand and that the company's privacy practices have not changed. 

"Users still have control over what data they choose to share when using our services," the spokeswoman said. 

"People don’t need to log in to use many of our services, including Search, Maps and YouTube. When someone does log in to use our services, we give them ways to control how the information in their account is used. For example, they can use the Google Dashboard to see and control what information we associate with their account. They can also turn off search personalization, turn off or edit their search history, turn their Gmail chats to “off the record” and use the Ads Preferences Manager to control how ads are tailored to them."

Google is already under scrutiny for potentially engaging in anti-competitive behavior by giving a boost to its own services in its search results. The company sparked further controversy with its "Search plus Your World" feature, which highlights Google's own social networking content in its search results.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is investigating whether Google has violated anti-trust law.


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