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Somoza joins attorney generals from 35 states blasting new Google policy

Puerto Rico Justice Secretary Guillermo Somoza-Colombani is one of 36 state attorneys who signed a five-page letter to Google Inc. President Larry Page voicing “strong concerns” with the new privacy policy the online giant announced will go into effect March 1 for all of its consumer products.

Specifically, the legal representatives belonging to the National Association of Attorneys General said the new policy is “troubling for a number of reasons,” one being that it forces consumers to allow personal information to be shared across all of Google’s products without giving them the ability to “opt out.”

“On a fundamental level, the policy appears to invade consumer privacy by automatically sharing personal information consumers input into one Google product with all Google products,” the letter dated Wednesday 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 legal representatives said, among other things, Google’s impending policy change represents an invasion of privacy that “will be costly for many users to escape” considering the significant number of people who use at least one Google product on a regular basis. Individuals, businesses and government agencies would all be affected by the open flow of personal information.

“For users who rely on Google products for their business — a use that Google has actively promoted — avoiding this information sharing may mean moving their entire business over to different platforms, reprinting any business cards or letterhead that contained Gmail addresses, re-training employees on web-based sharing and calendar services, and more,” the attorneys said.

“The problem is compounded for the many federal, state, and local government agencies that have transitioned to Google Apps for Government at the encouragement of your company, and that now will need to spend taxpayer dollars determining how this change affects the security of their information and whether they need to switch to different platforms,” they said, without detailing how much the government would have to spend for that undertaking.

In the letter, the state attorneys for Arizona, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Guam, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, N. Mariana Islands, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Washington, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico asked Page for a meeting, giving him until Feb. 29 to respond.

While Somoza’s signature is not on the document, his name is included in the list of attorneys supporting the claims.

Google’s new policy, effective March 1, will combine more than 60 privacy policies across services including Search, Gmail and YouTube.  Previously, data was kept separate in each of Google’s services. These new combined digital dossiers are tremendously powerful for targeting ads, something that Google does not mention, San Francisco-based Consumer Watchdog said.

Last week in the wake of a Stanford University researcher’s study that found Google has been violating people’s online privacy choices, Consumer Watchdog said the Internet giant was lying to users and called for the Federal Trade Commission to act.

Author Details
Author Details
Business reporter with 29 years of experience writing for weekly and daily newspapers, as well as trade publications in Puerto Rico. My list of former employers includes Caribbean Business, The San Juan Star, and the Puerto Rico Daily Sun, among others. My areas of expertise include telecommunications, technology, retail, agriculture, tourism, banking and most other segments of Puerto Rico’s economy.

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