"Last week we heard from members of Congress about Google's plans to update our privacy policies by consolidating them into a single document on March 1," Google director of public policy Pablo Chavez wrote today in a blog post accompanying the letter. "Protecting people's privacy is something we think about all day across the company, and we welcome discussions about our approach. We hope this letter, in which we respond to the members' questions, clears up the confusion about these changes."
"We're not collecting more data about you. Our new policy simply makes it clear that we use data to refine and improve your experience on Google--whichever products or services you use," Google said at the time. "This is something we have already been doing for a long time. We're making things simpler and we're trying to be upfront about it. Period."
But several lawmakers, including Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) and Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.), saw things differently. And in their letter to Google, they said that "consumers should have the ability to opt out of data collection when they are not comfortable with a company's terms of service."
"If a user is signed in, she can still edit or turn off her search history, switch Gmail chat to "off the record," control the way Google tailors ads to her interests using our Ads Preferences Manager, use Incognito mode on Chrome, or use any of the other privacy tools we offer."
"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 company wrote in its letter to the lawmakers.
Here are some of the answers Google provided in response to questions posed by the members of Congress:
- According to Google, it collects three types of data from users: log data, account data, and service data. Log data, defined as a computer's interaction with the service, is anonymous, while account data is all the user information stored for each individual. Service data is information that relates to a particular product, such as Google Maps, but is "not necessarily associated with any users."
Updated at 7:20 a.m. PT to include more details.