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Hill: Google Has More Explaining to Do

Look for Google to be invited to testify at a House subcommittee hearing on online privacy in the near future after one key legislator expressed concerns its new privacy policy is not ready for prime time.

That plan follows what was described as a "productive" closed-door meeting Thursday between Google execs and legislators concerned about its new updated privacy policy.

The issue heated up on Friday when the European Union asked Google to "pause" that March 1 rollout "in the interests of ensuring that there can be no misunderstanding about Google's commitments to information rights of their users," and EU has analyzed the policy.

Google responded in a letter that it planned to go ahead with the March 1 change.

Google two weeks ago said that it would be simplifying that policy, partly in response to calls from legislators, but also informed Google account users their information would be shared across all Google platforms to make for a more seamless experience.

A senior adviser for Rep. Mary Bono Mack, chairman of the House Energy & Commerce Manufacturing and Trade Subcommittee, pointed out that the subcommittee had held three or four privacy hearings so far, and would hold more in the spring. "I suspect Google will be invited to testify about how well the new policy is or is not working," Bono Mack senior adviser Ken Johnson told B&C/Multi.

He confirmed that a group of legislators, led by California Republican Bono Mack and including House privacy caucus co-chairs Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Joe Barton (R-Texas), House Energy & Commerce met with Google execs this week to talk about concerns with its updated privacy policy, which includes letting users know that anyone logged into an account will be treated as one user and the information shared across those accounts.

According to Johnson, Bono Mack's chief takeaway was that Google's policy "may not be ready for prime time on March 1." He said she was not asking Google to delay that launch, recognizing that they were free to change their policy, but only wanted to make sure its users were clear on what was happening and what options they had. "There is still a lot of confusion among consumers as well as members of Congress," he said, adding that they had a lot of educating to do in the next month to convince legislators that consumers understand their rights under the new policy.