Google's entry into broadband world already concerning to some

Google's announcement this week that it would launch an ultra-high speed broadband network won the praise of industry experts, who hope the search-engine giant can drive Web competition and innovation.

But not all are pleased: A handful of industry watchdogs fear Google's entry into a market dominated by providers like Comcast and Verizon could undermine users' privacy.

Their concerns seem to rest with the company's historic advertising capabilities. Frequent users of Gmail and Google search have doubtlessly noticed their mail or search results include advertisements targeted to their interests. That's no mistake, as Google has profited quite handily from its ability to analyze and market its own users' interests.

But Google's entry into the ISP market has some concerned it might do similarly with a user's entire Web clickstream -- discerning through one web goer's online session what he or she likes, and using that content for business or other means.

A Google spokesman stressed to reporters this week that Google remained committed to privacy and would never sell data collected from users' browsing behaviors. But the spokesperson did mention the company would consider advertising in that manner only if it had the "subscriber's explicit opt-in consent."

Nevertheless, at least one group is already unsatisfied by that hypothetical caveat. Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), told The Hill on Friday that Google's access to that sort of information would only allow it to become a monopoly, which could actually harm competition -- not help it, as Google itself has predicted.

"It's not sufficient," Rotenberg said of Google's line, adding that EPIC has previously pressed federal officials to rein in Google's growing business ventures.

He added that kind of "data shouldn't be used for advertising purposes, and the risk, of course, is that every Internet service is something that creates value for Google."