Reps. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Joe Barton (R-Tex.) have
officially asked the Federal Trade Commission for a decision on whether
Google's new policy of treating Web browsers across its products â€“Google
search, G-mail, YouTube â€“ as a single user violates its settlement with the
In a letter to FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz, the co-chairs of
the House Privacy Caucus pointed out that last year's settlement over alleged
They said they were "interested in any actions the FTC
has taken or plans to take to investigate whether Google has violated the terms
its consent agreement."
Google said earlier this week it was updating its privacy
policies to simplify them, as, it pointed out, regulators had called for. But
part of that simpler message will be a change in its policy. "[I]f you're
signed in, we may combine information you've provided from one service with
information from other services. In short, we'll treat you as a single user
across all our products, which will mean a simpler, more intuitive Google
experience," the company said.
IT would also allow for targeted advertising across those
Markey and Barton are concerned that there is not an opt-out
from that collective profile beyond not using the services. "This new
policy and omission of a consumer opt-out option on a product-by-product basis
raises a number of important privacy concerns," said the legislators.
They want an answer from the FTC by Feb. 21.
The FTC is currently conducting an antitrust investigation into Google's search and advertising businesses. A spokesperson confirmed the commission had received the Barton/Markey letter but would not comment on "what may or may not be in an ongoing investigation."