In a sharply-worded letter (download PDF) to Google CEO Larry Page, the officials questioned Google's commitment to consumer privacy and said the changes would force Internet users to share their data without giving them a proper ability to opt out.
Google said the new policy is shorter, easier to understand and will allow the company to deliver better and more targeted services for users of its products. The company also noted that users who do not like the new policy can simply stop using its services.
Policy Reversal Claimed
Privacy advocates have blasted the move and said that it will force users to share data about themselves that they may not want shared, given a proper choice. They have said that such data synthesizing will allow Google to look at everything a user does online and tie it back to specific individuals.
Some have noted that the user tracking and inference-making Google will be able to do once the data is merged is especially troublesome for government users of Google applications.
Many of those same concerns were echoed by the attorneys general in their letter to Page. Until now, users of different Google products expected that information provided for one service would not be combined with information provided for another, they said.
"Consumers have diverse interests and concerns, and may want the information in their Web History to be kept separate from the information they exchange via Gmail," the letter said. "Likewise, consumers may be comfortable with Google knowing their Search queries but not with it knowing their whereabouts."
Smartphone Security Issues
The state officials also focused on concerns by Android users.
In e-mailed comments, a Google spokesman reiterated that the changes make Google's privacy policies easier to understand. He noted that the company has launched its most extensive notification effort ever to help consumers understand the changes. and downplayed concerns about Android-powered smartphones.
Users can still use their Android phones to make calls and access certain Google applications such as search and Google Maps without having to sign into their Google account, he said. It's only for applications such as the Android market and Gmail that users will need to sign in, he said.
Jaikumar Vijayan covers data security and privacy issues, financial services security and e-voting for Computerworld. Follow Jaikumar on Twitter at @jaivijayan or subscribe to Jaikumar's RSS feed . His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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