Press Release

Congress Warned Of Google Privacy & Security Risks After Google Markets Services To Staffers On Hill

CONTACT: 310-392-0522 ext 327 or John Simpson 310-292-1902

Tue, Nov 18, 2008 at 11:41 am

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New Video Shows Privacy Problems With G-Mail

Washington, DC — Consumer Watchdog released a new on-line video exposing privacy problems with Google’s Gmail service and other Google applications in the wake of Google’s recent marketing efforts on Capitol Hill.   At a speech in Washington D.C. today, Google CEO Eric Schmidt acknowledged the group’s privacy concerns and expressed an interest in addressing them. He said his concern was balancing performance and speed of the system with privacy and security demands.

The video — which can be viewed at www.consumerwatchdog.org/google — shows that whether you use Google’s GMail or not, Google reads the contents of your emails, if the recipient uses GMail.  Consumer Watchdog also highlighted how the “auto save” function in many Google applications creates an unprotected communication for users even before a message is sent or a document submitted.  Previously Consumer Watchdog had called on Google to adopt Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) protection for transmission of information as a default.

“If Google can find the capacity to stream millions of YouTube videos, then we are confident the company can find the capacity to protect our privacy without sacrificing the speed of information transmission,” said Consumer Watchdog President Jamie Court. “We appreciate Google’s attention to these concerns but must warn about the threat to Google users’ privacy until they are addressed.”

Consumer Watchdog today called upon Google to stop opening emails from non-GMail users and add more security for those who use GMail. The nonprofit group also wrote Congress warning about the security risks for government officials use of Google services.  Click here to read the letter.

“Your staff should be aware that sensitive communications and documents created with Google’s software can be intercepted and read,” Consumer Watchdog’s Jamie Court and John Simpson wrote to 535 members of the House of Representative and the U.S. Senate.  “Google’s software and services are security risks because, often unbeknownst to the user,  information is stored on Google’s servers, not the computer user’s desktop. As our latest video shows, Google intentionally blurs the distinction between secure desktop and un-secure Internet use. Even if you trust Google’s servers to store sensitive government data, any one monitoring the transmission of that data between your staff’s computer and Google can read the contents of their email and their documents.”

After the election, Google went to Capitol Hill with a powerpoint presentation (NOTE: 15MB download) and solicited Hill staffers to use its services.

Schmidt responded to a question from Consumer Watchdog’s John Simpson, who attended a speech by Schmidt in the Ronald Reagan Ampitheater today.

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This post was written by:

Jamie Court

- who has written 26 posts on Inside Google.

Jamie Court is the author of The Progressive's Guide to Raising Hell and the President of Consumer Watchdog, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to providing an effective voice for taxpayers and consumers in an era when special interests dominate public discourse, government and politics. Visit us on Facebook and Twitter.

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