For Immediate Release - February 22, 2012

AG Coakley and 35 Attorneys General Send Letter to Google Chief Regarding New Privacy Policy

Letter Outlines Concerns of Increased Risk of Identity Theft

BOSTON — Concerned that recent changes to Google’s privacy policy increase the risk of identity theft and fraud, Attorney General Martha Coakley joined other Attorneys General today in sending a letter to Google Chief Executive Larry Page outlining several issues with the new guidelines. The letter was signed by a total 36 Attorneys General from across the country.

“We are concerned that Google’s new policy may threaten the ability of each user to keep certain aspects of their online history private,” AG Coakley said. “Today, the threat of identity theft is everywhere and we want to ensure that Google provides appropriate protection by giving consumers meaningful choices in determining how and when they share their personal information.”

According to the new policy that begins March 1, Google gives itself the freedom to combine users’ personal information from services like Web History and YouTube with all other Google products and will also store richer personal information on user profiles. The policy precludes existing users from opting out of this change without exiting the entire Google system completely.

Consolidated personal data profiles become a target for hackers and privacy thieves. In the letter to Google, Inc., the Attorneys General write:

“Those consumers who remain in the Google ecosystem may be making more of their personal information vulnerable to attack from hackers and identity thieves. Our offices litigate cases of identity fraud with regularity and it seems plain to us that Google’s privacy policy changes, which suggest your company’s intent to create richer personal data profiles, pose the risk of much more damaging cases of identity theft and fraud when that data is compromised, a risk that will grow as instances of computer hacking grow. With this newly consolidated bank of personal data, we foresee potentially more severe problems arising from any data breach.”

The ramifications of the new privacy policy will be virtually impossible to avoid for millions of consumers who already use Android-powered smartphones, currently estimated to be 50 percent of the national smartphone market. Users of these smartphones must log in to Google to activate much of the functionality of their devices.  They will now have to choose between either frequently logging in and out to avoid Google’s consolidation of their data, thus greatly reducing the efficiency of their smartphones, or replacing their smartphones at significant personal expense.

The Attorneys General recognize there may be many consumers who will welcome the consolidation and sharing of their personal information and data across multiple platforms. But consumers deserve a full accounting of how this new privacy policy may negatively impact them, and a meaningful opportunity to avoid being subjected to it.

The states and territories signing on to this letter are Arizona, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Delaware, 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, Northern Mariana Islands, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virgin Islands, and Washington.

Given the serious concerns expressed on behalf of those consumers, the Attorneys General have requested a meeting with Google Inc. CEO Larry Page as soon as possible. Mr. Page has been asked to reply no later than Wednesday, February 29.


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