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Google's Privacy Shift Troubling Government Officials, Consumer Advocates

Google’s new privacy policy goes into effect today and a lot of people have raised concerns about how Google is using its overwhelming dominance in search and search advertising to strong-arm users into its new privacy policy.

FairSearch agrees. See, when a single company controls 79 percent of the market for search in the U.S., more than 90 percent in Europe, and 97 percent on mobile search in the U.S., it no longer feels the competitive pressure to do what is best for users.

But don’t take our word for it. Here’s what officials and advocates have said about how Google’s dominance has affected Google’s recent actions on privacy:

“I am troubled that these changes appear to allow greater use by Google of consumers’ information but do not give consumers the ability to opt out of such new uses of their data… Particularly troubling is that the ubiquity and popularity of Google services makes it difficult for users to prevent the collection of this data.”

Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) official blog, 1/24/12

“This announcement is pretty frustrating and potentially frightening from a kids and family and teenager standpoint and an overall consumer privacy standpoint.”

Common Sense Media CEO James Steyer in Bloomberg, 1/25/12

“Any time one company has so much economic power over so many other companies, scrutiny for competition policy violations is warranted… the reason citizens should care about all of this is not pity for advertisers facing monopoly pricing (although that is a policy concern), but that Google’s business model is based on systematically stripping away user privacy to maintain its dominance… In turn, tougher antitrust restrictions on Google entering and dominating new sectors will also lessen the incessant battering of user privacy in sector after sector.

Nathan Newman, TechProgress.org in Law360, 2/15/12

“It rings hollow to call [consumers’] ability to exit the Google products ecosystem a ‘choice’ in an Internet economy where the clear majority of all Internet users use – and frequently rely on – at least one Google product on a regular basis.”

National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG) letter to Google, 2/22/12

“It’s sort of the story of how you boil a frog in lukewarm water. Google may be capturing its consumers in the same way so that consumers don’t understand what is happening until they are cooked.”

Bert Foer, president of the American Antitrust Institute in The Washington Post, 2/27/12

“The impact on privacy and data protection is all the more important, given that Google represents more than 80% of the European search engine market, around 30% of the European smartphones market, 40% of the global online video market and more than 40% of the global online advertisement market; Google Analytics is also the most popular analytics tool in Europe.

French regulator CNIL letter, 2/28/12

“It’s a fairly binary and somewhat brutal choice that they are giving consumers. I think I can’t say much more. But we’re aware.”

FTC Chairman Jon Liebowitz on CSPAN via AllThingsD.com, 2/28/12

“Regulators on both sides of the Atlantic need to take meaningful action to halt Google’s willful flouting of the rules.”

John Simpson, Consumer Watchdog, 2/28/12

“For the last several years, consumers in North America and Europe have helped make Google the most successful Internet company in the world. Consumers have supported your products with the revenue that their interests create for you and your advertisers. Google’s services have been adopted in schools, businesses, and organizations. And consumers have relied on your policies and your terms of services in choosing your products… Going forward with this plan will be a mistake. We ask you to reconsider.

TACD Information Society Policy Committee Letter to Google CEO Larry Page from Co-Chairs Susan Grant, Consumer Federation of America, and Thomas Nortvedt, Norwegian Consumer Council, 2/29/12

“Companies with leadership like Google should think very hard before they over-exploit their dominant position.”

UK Conservative MP David Davis to The Independent, 3/1/12

“Unfortunately, Google dominates so much Internet traffic that it remains virtually impossible to fully escape its reach. — That’s why we need complete answers by Google to explain the extent of their data collection methods across the web and how the information is used to target consumers for ads. To get these answers, lawmakers should demand that Google executives appear before Congress and testify under oath.”

American Consumer Institute Center for Citizen Research President Steve Pociask on FOX News, 3/1/12