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If you are on Gmail or YouTube, you probably saw Google’s announcement of its new privacy settings. The company collects and compiles data about you based on your activity on its search page, Gmail, YouTube and phones running its Android operating system. Soon it will be selling that information to advertisers targeting you specifically based on your Google patterns.

This is giving privacy advocates cause for alarm. Eight members of Congress, both Democrats and Republicans, wrote a letter to Google CEO Larry Page asking Google to explain what kind of data it currently collects and explain how that info will be used under the new system.

The letter states: “While Google suggests that the purpose of this shift in policy is to make the consumer experience simpler, we want to make sure it does not make protecting consumer privacy more complicated.”

The lawmakers also noted that because of Google’s global reach, the change “potentially touches billions of people worldwide.”

In a post on the company’s public policy blog, Google’s Betsy Masiello wrote, “A lot has been said about our new privacy policy. Some have praised us for making our privacy policy easier to understand. Others have asked questions, including members of Congress, and that’s understandable too.”

Masiello further explains, point by point, what’s involved. Click here to read the points Masiello makes in the post.

Meanwhile, Google says this controversial new privacy policy will not create problems for Google Apps for Government customers, nor will it affect existing contracts that spell out how it handles and stores data belonging to government users of its cloud services.

Google’s Amit Singh, vice president of Google Enterprise stated, “As always, Google will maintain our enterprise customers’ data in compliance with the confidentiality and security obligations provided to their domain.”

The froth over Google’s rewritten privacy policy has been stirred, in part, because Google does not allow an opt-out option. Which means that if you don’t want your information from Gmail, YouTube and Google searches combined into one personal data bank that paints a detailed picture of you, your only option is to stop using Google’s services.

Google’s compilation of all your personal data is worth an estimated $5,000 on average. And that bothers some users. Is it bothering you?

Privacy is an issue

With regard to Internet privacy issues, Sheryl Sandberg, Chief Operating Officer at Facebook, said at a recent conference in Munich that we are in the middle of three trends. According to a report by Keith Teare, co-founder of TechCrunch, Sandberg said the first is a trend “from anonymity to real identity.”

Second, a trend from “wisdom of crowds to wisdom of friends” and third, a trend “from being receivers of information to broadcasters of information.”

This video showing her presentation helps when thinking about Google’s privacy policy changes.

Your reputation shot?

“I was slandered online. It damaged my business and my family. I figured out how to solve my problem, and I can help you too.” – Reputation Advocate’s Steven Wyer

Facebook, Twitter and other social networking sites can be an open book to your life. Attempts by the feds to take over and control the Internet through regulation and legislation are ever present threats.

Steven Wyer, CEO of Reputation Advocate and author of “Violated Online” and the victim of online slander has tips to help you protect your online reputation, even after it has been damaged.

Privacy policies: Do you read them?

“People don’t read privacy policies,” according to Nick Bicanic, founder of Echoecho.

And that puts everyone in a privacy quandary.

“It means consumers don’t really know how much personal information they’re giving up and how it might be used,” Bicanic contiunues. “It calls into question the informed consent rationale for our primarily self-regulatory approach to online privacy in this country. And it undermines the argument the industry has used to wash its hands of further responsibility: Hey, we told users what we were doing.”

Read more about what can be done to protect your privacy.

Don’t want a visit from the feds? Don’t do this on Facebook

This definitely will not play in Peoria.

A veteran Peoria police sergeant posted something on his Facebook page that got the attention of the Secret Service. The photo depicted seven high school students, four of them with guns and another showing a T-shirt bearing a bullet-riddled image of President Barack Obama.

The outcome of the probe? You’ll have to read about it here.

Freedom of the press

The United States has fallen to 47th in press freedom rankings, according to a report released by Reporters Without Borders, an advocacy group for global press freedom. The annual report that shows the U.S. dropped 27 points due to arrests of several journalists who covered the Occupy Wall Street protests.

In another matter, Reporters Without Borders wrote to Twitter’s executive chairman Jack Dorsey, urging that the microblogger’s censorship policy be ditched immediately.

Is Twitter censoring?

Twitter’s got a new censorship plan, and it is outraging users worldwide.

Why? According to Twitter: “If we receive a valid and properly scoped request from an authorized entity, it may be necessary to reactively withhold access to certain content in a particular country from time to time …”

Twitter also tells its users that upon receipt of requests to withhold content, it will notify affected users unless legally prohibited from doing so: “… and clearly indicate to viewers when content has been withheld. We have also expanded our partnership with Chilling Effects to include the publication of requests to withhold content in addition to the DMCA notifications that we already transmit.”

Read this letter to Twitter’s CEO urging him to not to cooperate with censors.

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