“We Have Made Mistakes” On Data Privacy, Google Executive Tells Senate

In what will be the latest in a string of tech-giant mea culpas, Google is planning to admit that it has made “mistakes” when it comes to privacy issues when a company executive delivers testimony to the Senate Commerce Committee on Wednesday, according to Reuters. “We acknowledge that we have made mistakes in the past, from which we have learned, and improved our robust privacy program,” Google chief privacy officer Keith Enright is planning to say, according to a draft of his written testimony. 

However, the testimony didn’t identify specific mistakes, and – what’s worse – Google’s behavior has been anything but contrite. And the company disappointed many privacy advocates earlier this week when it said it would continue to allow third-party apps to scan the contents of users’ Gmail accounts.

The company was roundly criticized for the practice over the summer when it first came to light.


According to CNET, Wednesday’s hearing will focus on the efforts of tech companies and ISPs to protect user privacy. Executives from Apple, Amazon, AT&T and Twitter.will also testify at the hearing, which is the latest in a string of tech-firm interrogations to take place since Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testified before a joint session of the Senate Commerce and Judiciary Committees in the immediate aftermath of the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

Google’s CEO is also expected to meet privately with some Republican lawmakers.

Google on Monday released a data privacy framework, suggesting companies limit data collection, be required to protect that data and give people control of and easy access to information collected about them.

Google CEO Sundar Pichai will also meet privately with top Republican members of Congress on Friday.

Google parent Alphabet has a checkered history of safeguarding privacy concerns, as Reuters points out:

n 2012, Google agreed to pay a then record $22.5 million civil penalty to settle Federal Trade Commission charges that it misrepresented to Apple Safari Internet browser users that it would not place tracking “cookies” or serve them targeted ads.

A year earlier, Google agreed to an FTC privacy settlement and regular privacy audits for 20 years after the government charged it used deceptive tactics and violating consumer privacy promises when it launched its social network, Google Buzz.

In August, Alphabet was sued and accused of illegally tracking movements of millions of iPhone and Android phone users even when they use a privacy setting to prevent it.

Senate Commerce committee chairman John Thune said this week that Congress must work on a law that would enshrine consumer protections at the federal level. Tech firms have acquiesced to lawmakers’ demands as they hope that any federal legislation will be less restrictive than a California data privacy law that has become the de facto law of the land.