Google Users Concerned About WiSpy But Still Prefer Google

Wed, Jul 28, 2010 at 2:04 pm

    Web consumers are concerned about Google’s collection of data over wireless networks, but still give the search engine and Web services provider a favorable rating of 74 percent. That’s the latest from a poll conducted by Google watchers Consumer Watchdog and Grove Insight, which also found citizens are concerned about their privacy.

    Some 1,000 voters indicated that while the majority of users are concerned about Google’s collection of citizens’ computer data from wireless networks, they stick with Google because it meets their needs for search and other Web applications.

    Google said May 14 that its Street View cars, which roam Earth’s streets to collect ground-level footage for Google Maps accidentally collected 600 gigabytes of Web users’ e-mail, password and other tidbits of information.

    The non-profit Consumer Watchdog teamed with researcher Grove Insight to poll 1,000 “likely 2010 general election voters.”

    Nearly two-thirds of the 1,000 respondents said Google’s WiSpy incident is one of the things that “worries them most” or a “great deal” about the search engine.

    In fact, consumers are bothered enough by the so-called WiSpy issue that 69 percent of respondents said they would like Congress to conduct hearings on the matter, as well as on what information Google is sharing with the National Security Administration.

    “This poll shows that the WiSpy scandal is a political minefield for both Google and Congress, and it has the power to scar both,” said John M. Simpson, consumer advocate with the group. “The company and the government need to come clean about how Google is cooperating with NSA.”

    And yet through it all, people still enjoy using Google, which received an overall favorable rating of 74 percent, according to the poll.

    The gist seems to be that while consumers are concerned about how Google treats user data, they will continue to use the search engine and other Web services.

    Meanwhile, Google is working to resolve the WiFi data collection issues with the more than 30 countries where data was collected on servers.

    Google claims the data was not used at all and that the data collection was the result of code installed on Google’s servers by a rogue engineer.

    Even so, Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal is spearheading an investigation to determine whether Google intended to have its Street View software collect data from unsecured wireless computer networks.

    Blumenthal threatened to sue the company if he does not receive some answers.

    Consumer privacy is a hot topic during the dog days of summer. Consumer Watchdog and Grove issued their poll results the same day the Senate Commerce Committee held general hearings about protecting consumer online privacy.

    Respondents for the poll said they would like Congress to enact laws that order a stronger ability to block tracking of personal information, as well as a “make me anonymous button” that prohibits Internet companies from tracking personal information or Web searches without explicit consent.

    Read further analysis of the Grove poll here.

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