Industry group: Google has bad privacy policy


The privacy policies of Google and other tech firms could allow them to mine personal data held by government agencies that use cloud-based email, database and document services, an industry group warned.

The group,, a consortium of industry experts promoting safe government use of cloud services, raised the concern as Google has sought to defuse controversy over changes to its privacy policy that allow for more extensive tracking of consumers. first highlighted this issue in January after Google announced plans to consolidate its privacy policy across more than 60 services, allowing tracking of users as they move among those sites. The group recently renewed its call for greater safeguards after European data-protection commissioners last month identified significant legal shortcomings in the policy and called for changes.

Google officials say the changes to its privacy policy do not affect the bundle of productivity software it sells to governments, which are governed by contractual provisions.

Privacy groups have long expressed concern about how companies gather and use personal information for targeting ads or other commercial purposes. favors the creation of privacy policies written specifically to prohibit data mining when government agencies use cloud-based services from Google and others.

“The privacy policy as written gives them unlimited ability to mine (data) as they see fit,” said Jeff Gould of, an IT consultant who formerly worked in the federal Office of Management and Budget.

Google officials say their contracts with government entities include rules on how data may be used. “As always, Google will maintain our enterprise customers’ data in compliance with the confidentiality and security obligations provided to their domain,” said Amit Singh, vice president of Google Enterprise, in a statement.

Those contracts with government entities can be public documents, though agencies sometimes do not make their specific terms, such as privacy policies, easily available.

The federal government has pushed in recent years to move data to cloud-based services, which officials say are cheaper and more reliable. The General Services Administration has taken a leading role in that effort, moving its employees to Gmail and adopting other services from the company.

The agency’s contract with Google has a privacy policy that’s more restrictive than offered to ordinary consumers and guarantees the security of data, said spokesman Dan Cruz. “GSA assesses compliance through control testing and periodic audits,” he said. says its concerns extend to state and local governments, as well as schools and other public institutions.


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