This is a major change and Google should give consumers the ability to opt out of a policy that could jeopardize their privacy. —Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff
Their concern is that the new policy will increase the risk of identity theft and fraud, according to the attorney general's spokesman Paul Murphy. The policy, which is slated to go into effect March 1, will allow Google to collect more information on those using its various services.
Shurtleff said the new policy allows Google to collect users' personal information using their Web history and YouTube access — in addition to their Google services — without first asking for their consent. This is addressed in a letter signed by Shurtleff and 35 other attorneys general from various states and U.S. territories.
"Until now, users of Google’s many products could use different products in different ways, expecting that information they provide for one product, such as YouTube, would not be synthesized with information they provide for another product, such as Gmail and Maps," the letter states. "The new policy forces these consumers to allow information across all of these products to be shared, without giving them the proper ability to opt out."
Shurtleff and his colleagues are especially concerned with how the information could be used by those other than Google.
"Those consumers who remain in the Google ecosystem may be making more of their personal information vulnerable to attack from hackers and identity thieves," they wrote. "With this newly consolidated bank of personal data, we foresee potentially more severe problems arising from any data breach."
Google's new policy is already posted on the company's website and explains its purpose.
"We collect information to provide better services to all of our users — from figuring out basic stuff like which language you speak, to more complex things like which ads you’ll find most useful or the people who matter most to you online," the company's policies and principles website states. "We use the information we collect from all of our services to provide, maintain, protect and improve them, to develop new ones, and to protect Google and our users."
The website goes on to list the various ways the information is gathered and how it is put to use. It does note that the information may now be gathered from across its various Google services.
The website does have a subcategory titled "Transparency and choice," where it addresses how individuals can control their information, even by removing it or changing their privacy settings.
But the various attorneys general wrote that the change "goes against a respect for privacy that Google has carefully cultivated as a way to attract consumers" and requested a meeting on the policy with Google executives. They have asked for a response by Feb. 29.