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February 22, 2012

Attorneys General Challenge Google On New Privacy Policy

HARTFORD – Attorney General George Jepsen joined with attorneys general of 36 states and territories today in raising strong concerns about a new privacy policy by Google, Inc., scheduled to take effect March 1 for all users of Google products and services.

Under the new privacy policy, Google gives itself the freedom to combine users’ personal information from services such as YouTube with Gmail and all other Google products.

“This not only raises personal privacy issues, but it makes the collected personal information an attractive target for hackers and identity thieves,” Attorney General Jepsen said. “Google has not given users a real choice to participate and the policy makes it practically impossible to opt out, short of exiting all Google services,” Jepsen said.

In a letter to Larry Page, Google’s chief executive officer, the attorneys general outlined their issues and requested a meeting with the company as soon as possible to “work toward a solution that will best protect the privacy needs of those who use Google’s products.”

Attorney General Jepsen, who has been in contact with Google about potential issues with the changes to its privacy policy, joined the request for a meeting to foster a national discussion.

The attorneys general said Google’s policy appears to invade consumer privacy by automatically sharing personal information consumers provide for one Google product, such as Gmail and YouTube, with all Google products.

“Consumers may be comfortable with Google knowing their Search queries, but not with it knowing their whereabouts, yet the new privacy policy appears to give them no choice in the matter, further invading their privacy,” the attorneys general wrote. Also, consolidated personal data profiles would be an attractive target for hackers and privacy thieves, they said.

For most users, opting out of all Google products and services would not be a practical choice because of the expense involved. For example, users who rely on Google products for their business or government services – uses that Google has actively promoted – may need to move their entire operations to different platforms to avoid expanded information sharing, the attorneys general said.

Users of Android-powered smartphones – estimated to be 50 percent of the national smartphone market – must log in to Google to activate much of the functionality of their devices. They would need to buy a new phone to avoid Google’s privacy policy.

In Connecticut, Assistant Attorney General Matthew Fitzsimmons, head of the Data Privacy Task Force, is handling this issue for the Attorney General with Associate Attorney General Perry Zinn-Rowthorn.

Letter to Google


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