Official’s Buzz Profile Sparks FOIA Request For His Emails

Fri, Apr 2, 2010 at 11:42 am

    Google’s Buzz has drawn two privacy lawsuits, a request for a Federal Trade Commission investigation and some pointed criticism by lawmakers.

    Now, information revealed by Buzz about Andrew McLaughlin, Deputy Chief Technology Officer for the Obama administration and former Google lobbyist, has spurred Consumer Watchdog — which opposed McLaughlin’s appointment — to file a Freedom of Information Act request for McLaughlin’s emails.

    This week, Breitbart’s Big Government reported that McLaughlin’s Buzz profile showed that at least 28 of his contacts worked at Google. “McLaughlin’s Gmail appears to include a ‘who’s who’ of Google senior lobbyists and lawyers from across the globe,” the site wrote.

    That’s reason enough to request McLaughlin’s emails, says John Simpson, consumer advocate for Consumer Watchdog. “His top contacts were former Google colleagues,” Simpson says. “That prompted a concern on my part. We ought to be able to see the emails that have gone back and forth between McLaughlin and Google executives.”

    The White House takes the position that the emails need not be disclosed, the Los Angeles Times reports.

    Simpson acknowledges that some of the emails between McLaughlin and Google employees might be personal, but argues that the government must come forward and argue that particular messages are privileged.

    When Google launched Buzz, it disclosed the names of users’ email contacts, if users activated Buzz without changing the defaults. Since then, Google revised the service; now, it merely suggests followers, rather than automatically creating them.

    While the revision was a welcome change, it obviously came too late to protect the privacy of people like McLaughlin.

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