Privacy Update: The Latest News

Casey BartoThe last few weeks have seen several developments on the privacy front: everything from Google’s new privacy policy to the White House offering privacy guidelines.
Let’s start with Google and its new privacy policy. Google has officially rolled out its new privacy policy despite protests from consumers and politicians alike. Announced in January, Google informed consumers that its new privacy policy would “bring all data gathered on users from its different platforms, such as YouTube, Gmail and Blogger, into a single system, which it said will allow it to improve its services.”

The inability to opt-out of the changes has sparked ire from several groups. In an open letter to Google, The National Association of State Attorneys General wrote, “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.”

On its blog, however, Google insists that its privacy controls aren’t changing. “If you don’t think information sharing will improve your experience, you can use our privacy tools to do things like edit or turn off your search history and YouTube history, control the way Google tailors ads to your interests and browse the web “incognito” using Chrome. You can use services like Search, Maps and YouTube if you are not signed in. You can even separate your information into different accounts, since we don’t combine personal information across them.”

Last week the White House announced a set of privacy principles that it feels will help consumers control the use of their data that’s collected from internet searches. According to the New York Times, the outline “moves electronic commerce closer to a one-click, one-touch process by which users can tell Internet companies whether they want their online activity tracked.”

President Obama released a statement saying, “American consumers can’t wait any longer for clear rules of the road that ensure their personal information is safe online. By following this blueprint, companies, consumer advocates and policy makers can help protect consumers and ensure the Internet remains a platform for innovation and economic growth.”

On the mobile front California Attorney General Kamala D. Harris announced that the state had reached an agreement with Amazon, Apple, Google, Hewlett-Packard, Microsoft and RIM that would “strengthen privacy protections for smartphone owners who download mobile applications.”

The new agreement will force developers to post privacy policies outlining what personal data they will gather how they will use it. Consumers will also be able to report apps that do not comply with the new privacy protections.

What are your thoughts on these developments?

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