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Markey Wants FTC Input On Google Privacy Policy Change

Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), co-chair of the House Privacy Caucus, said Thursday he would contact the Federal Trade Commission about Google's announced change in its privacy policy.

He wants to know if it violates Google's settlement last March over charges it violated with its own privacy policies when it launched the social network, Google Buzz. That settlement included implementing the first-ever FTC requirement of employing a "comprehensive" privacy program, one that that will get independent audits for the next 20 years.

Markey said in a statement that Google should allow users to opt out of its plan to combine user info to treat them as a single user across Google products.

He was also a signatory to a letter from a number of members of the House Energy & Commerce Committee to Google CEO Larry Page asking for more info on the plan and expressing their support for the option of opting out.

They asked for answers to a series of questions, saying they would like an answer by Feb. 16. those questions include the names of the Google products and services across which users will be tracked, how it intends to inform users, whether there will be specific protections for kids and teens, and many more.

Markey and Joe Barton (R-Texas), the other chair of the privacy caucus and a signatory to the letter, have pitched legislation that would heighten privacy protections for kids and teens.

Other signatories to the letter include E&C ranking member Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.), chair of the government oversight subcommittee, and Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.).

Balckburn had some tough words for Google in a statement e-mailed to B&C. "After all the controversies Google has become entangled, the question people keep asking is -- how can we ever begin to trust Google? I've always said private industry needs to take the lead in providing consumer choice and transparency before big government rushes in to regulate. But Google's move to eradicate consumer choice all together across their various platforms raises additional questions about how the company's monopoly power might hurt competition and how their action might unilaterally and unnecessarily invite even broader government regulations on everyone else."

In a blog posting, Google outlined the ways it says web users will still have control over their Google surfing experience, including editing or turning of their search history, setting Gmail chat to "off the record," using the "incognito" setting on Chrome or any of a series of privacy tools.