WASHINGTON, DC — Consumer Advocate John M. Simpson today repeated Consumer Watchdog’s call for Congressional hearings into the Google Wi-Spy scandal during testimony about federal agency use of Web 2.0 technology.
The hearing was before the Subcommittee on Information Policy, Census and National Archives of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.
Noting that the nonpartisan, nonprofit public interest group has urged the House Energy and Commerce Committee to hold hearings, Simpson said, “We have called for Congressional hearings into the scandal and I respectfully repeat that request today.”
Turning to federal agency use of Web 2.0 – such services as Google’s YouTube, Facebook and Twitter — he said the technology offers “ powerful and valuable tools,” but added a caveat.
“They should be used carefully, however, without unduly favoring a particular provider and there must be explicit warnings when a consumer leaves an official government site,” Simpson said. “Most importantly, however, Congress must enact meaningful privacy legislation to safeguard consumers as they use these online services that have become known as Web 2.0..
During his opening remarks Simpson made three points:
“First, as I saw personally when I took vacation time to campaign for Barack Obama in Missouri, Web 2.0 tools are powerful indeed. It is no surprise they have been adopted by federal agencies. They certainly improve government transparency, responsiveness and citizen involvement. I think they are particularly attractive to young people. All this is to the good.
“Second, on the downside, many of these technologies raise substantial challenges to consumers’ privacy. Given the appalling track record of Facebook and Google in this area – one only need to think of Wi-Spy and the launch of Google Buzz or Facebook’s unilateral revision of privacy policies — to see that these companies do not have consumer privacy high on their list of priorities.
“Third, federal agency use of Web 2.0 techniques implies a government endorsement of many of these companies. Because this may lull consumers into trusting such sites far more than they should, it is imperative that Congress enact robust online privacy laws to protect consumer privacy and other rights.”
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Consumer Watchdog, formerly the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights is a nonprofit, nonpartisan consumer advocacy organization with offices in Washington, DC and Santa Monica, Ca. Consumer Watchdog’s website is www.consumerwatchdog.org. Visit our new Google Privacy and Accountability Project website: http://insidegoogle.com.