Google defended its privacy policies on Tuesday, saying they provide services that range from helping parents send Amber Alerts about missing children to aiding people who want to flee natural disasters.
But the company also supports legislation to help protect privacy online--so long as it is applied equally to all providers, the company said in prepared testimony submitted for Tuesday's hearing of the Senate Judiciary Privacy, Technology, and the Law Subcommittee.
Google, Apple, and other companies are under fire after a series of news reports showed that devices using their software and hardware can track and store people's movements.
"Google supports the development of comprehensive, baseline privacy framework that can ensure broad-based user trust, and that will support continued innovation and serve the privacy interests of consumers," Alan Davidson, Google's director of public policy, said in prepared testimony.
"Congress has a vital role to play in encouraging responsible privacy and security practices, both by bringing attention to these issues and through appropriate legislation."
Senate Commerce Chairman Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., introduced a "do-not-track" privacy bill on Monday and gained the support of a range of consumer groups, but the legislation falls short of requiring do-not-track options. Davidson laid out what Google would like to see.
"A pro-innovation privacy framework must apply even-handedly to all personal data regardless of source or means of collection," he said.
Davidson's message? Companies such as Google are not the enemy.
"We pride ourselves at Google for industry-leading security features, including the use of encryption for our search and Gmail services. But we need help from the government to help ensure that the bad acts of criminal hackers or inadequate security on the part of other companies does not undermine consumer trust for all services," Davidson said.
"Moreover, the patchwork of state law in this area leads to confusion and unnecessary cost. Congress should therefore promote uniform, reasonable security principles, including data breach notification procedures."
Davidson attacked the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, which governs government access to stored communications, as outdated. He said it needs updating to reflect cloud computing, for instance.
Davidson also defended the tracking software.
"Mobile location data can even save lives," he said. That includes tracking missing children, he said.
"Within a few hours of the Japan earthquake, for example, we saw a massive spike in search queries originating from Hawaii related to 'tsunami.' We placed a location-based alert on the Google homepage for tsunami alerts in the Pacific and ran similar promotions across News, Maps, and other services," Davidson added.