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In 2011, Google Inc. Chief Executive and co-founder Larry Page asked executives to develop a new, simplified privacy tool that would act as a kind of sliding scale, allowing users to designate whether they wanted minimal, medium or maximum collection of information about them in all of Google's services, and how much the information would be shielded from being viewed by other users.Google Wrestles With Data Privacy and The Use of Collected User Data [online.wsj.com]
After much wrangling and many attempts to build the "slider" tool, whose three main settings were nicknamed "kitten," "cat" and "tiger," the idea was abandoned last year, according to people familiar with the matter. Because Google has so many Web services that operate differently, executives found it impossible to reduce privacy controls to so few categories, these people said. Also, allowing people to select the maximum-protection setting, known as the "tin-foil-hat option," went against Google's newer efforts to get more people to share information about themselves on the Google+ social-networking service, they said.
But there are signs Google is feeling increased pressure to calibrate how much emphasis it puts on user privacy. Scarred by a small number of past user-privacy missteps that generated global controversy, and under increased regulatory scrutiny in the U.S. and Europe, executives are engaged in wide-ranging internal debates and in some cases slowing product launches to address privacy concerns, according to people familiar with the matter.