Google posted to its Public Policy blog this morning to emphasize the point that they are changing their privacy policies, not their privacy controls, and to share a letter the company wrote to members of congress.
Specific members include: Cliff Steams, Joe Barton, Marsha Blackburn, G.K. Butterfield, Henry Waxman, Edward Markey, Diana DeGette and Jackie Spier.
In the blog post, Google reminds people of five points:
- We’re still keeping your private information private -- we’re not changing the visibility of any information you have stored with Google.
- We’re still allowing you to do searches, watch videos on YouTube, get driving directions on Google Maps, and perform other tasks without signing into a Google Account.
- We’re still offering you choice and control through privacy tools like Google Dashboard and Ads Preferences Manager that help you understand and manage your data.
- We still won’t sell your personal information to advertisers.
- We’re still offering data liberation if you’d prefer to close your Google Account and take your data elsewhere.
There are some more specifics about the control Google offers users in the letter.
In the letter, Google notes that the old policies have restricted the company's ability to combine info within an account for web history (search history for signed in users) and YouTube. "For example, if a user is signed in and searching Google for cooking recipes, our current privacy policies wouldn’t let us recommend cooking videos when she visits YouTube based on her searches – even though she was signed into the same Google Account when using both Google Search and YouTube," Google says in the letter.
Below is the full text of the letter:
Dear Members of Congress:
Thank you for your letter of January 26, 2012 about Google’s plans to update our privacy policies by consolidating them into one document that is publicly available on our site at www.google.com/policies/privacy/preview.
There are several other key points that we appreciate the chance to clarify:
- Our users can use as much or as little of Google as they want. For example, a user might have a Google Account and choose to use Gmail, but not use Google+. Or she could keep her data separated with different accounts – for example, one for YouTube and another for Gmail.
- We will continue to offer our data liberation tools. Our users will continue to have the ability to take their information elsewhere quickly and simply (more information about data liberation is available at www.dataliberation.org).
There are two reasons why we’re updating our privacy policies: to make them simpler and more
understandable, and to improve the user experience across Google.
The first reason is simplicity. Google started out in 1998 as a search engine, but since then, like other technology companies, we’ve added a whole range of different services. Gmail, Google Maps, Google Apps, Blogger, Chrome, Android, YouTube, and Google+ are just a few of our many services now used by millions of people around the world.
For example, today we make it easy for a signed-in user to immediately add an appointment to her Calendar when a message in Gmail looks like it’s about a meeting. As a signed-in user she can also read a Google Docs document right in her Gmail, rather than having to leave Gmail to read the document. Our ability to share information for one account across services also allows signed-in users to use Google+’s sharing feature – called ―circles‖ – to send directions to family and friends without leaving Google Maps. And a signed-in user can use her Gmail address book to auto-complete an email address when she’s inviting someone to work on a Google Docs document. These are just a few examples of how we make our users’ experience seamless and easy by allowing information sharing among services when users are signed into their Google Accounts.
Director of Public Policy