ACI Statement Regarding Today’s House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Privacy and Innovation Hearing

Washington, DC, March 29, 2012 — Today’s hearing by the House Energy and Commerce committee is an important first step in making sure that we take a more comprehensive look at protecting consumer privacy in the digital age.  Consumers are growing increasingly concerned about their online privacy and the way in which their privacy is being treated by online companies.  As the dominant online search and advertising company, much of the consumer experience is controlled by Google and its lack of concern about consumer privacy needs to be addressed as part of a broader approach to privacy.  We have a few questions for the Committee and ones we hope to see Members of the Committee use today’s hearing to ask the distinguished witnesses – particularly the FTC.  Below are some suggested questions we would like answered:

  • First, consumers want to know why Google, the dominant online company who has shown little regard for online privacy protections is not at today’s hearing to speak on this critical issue?  They, more than anyone, have questions to answer.
  • What does the FTC plan to do about Google’s new radical and confusing privacy policy which retroactively merges all data the advertising giant has collected on a consumer into one user-profile for the purposes of selling ads?  A policy that led 36 state attorneys general – on both sides of the aisle – as well as members of Congress and regulators in the United States and across the globe to raise serious questions about this new policy.
  • After settling with the FTC for violating privacy protections with Google Buzz and settling with state attorneys general over the collection of unauthorized data in Google Spy-Fi, what steps are being taken to ensure that Google no longer flouts our privacy laws?
  • It was widely reported that Google created special computer code designed to ignore a user’s privacy settings in Apple’s Safari web browser which allowed the internet giant to track a consumer’s browsing behavior without their knowledge.  What steps will be taken by the FTC to ensure Google will not release similar computer code on the web to spy on an unsuspecting users in the future?

Google’s lack of interest in consumer privacy is becoming an even larger concern as the company gains a greater foothold in providing government solutions, making American citizens subject to their lax privacy commitment without their knowledge.  Congress is making important strides in examining the protection of consumer privacy and we hope today’s hearing is only the beginning, and that it leads to more specific hearings into Google’s harmful privacy practices and utter disregard for consumer privacy.

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