SANTA MONICA, CA — Citing new information about Google’s classified government contracts and the Internet giant’s admitted Wi-Spying activity, Consumer Watchdog today said it is more imperative than ever for the Energy and Commerce Committee to conduct hearings into possible privacy violations by Google.
In a letter to Committee Chairman Henry Waxman and Ranking Member Joe Barton, the nonpartisan, nonprofit public interest group’s John M. Simpson wrote:
“Based on today’s Washington Post, it appears that Google holds classified U.S. government contracts to supply search and geospatial information to the U.S. government. In addition, White House records show that Google executives have been holding meetings with U.S. national security officials for undisclosed reasons. Finally, it also appears that Google’s widely criticized efforts to collect wireless network data on American citizens were not inadvertent, contrary to the company’s claims.”
“As history has repeatedly shown, alliances between the U.S. intelligence community and giant corporations that collect data on American citizens can be a toxic combination where the U.S. Constitution is concerned,” the letter said.
In a June 9 letter to the Energy and Commerce Committee, Google director for public policy Pablo Chavez asserted that Google “mistakenly included code in our software that collected samples of ‘payload data’ ” from private WiFi networks. But review of a patent application from Google covering the gathering of WiFi data published Jan. 28 shows that the data collection program was a very deliberate effort to assemble as much information as possible about U.S. residential and business WiFi networks.
The letter continued:
“… what the patent does show is that Google’s recent claims about how the Street View program was designed are not accurate, and that the company always intended to collect and store the “packets” of wireless data that contain so-called payload information.
“The patent makes repeated reference to ‘capturing’ packets, including paragraph , which states that the system will enable geolocations so long as the equipment being used ‘is able to capture and properly decode a packet…’
“This raises serious questions about whether Google has engaged in a reckless effort to amass private data without giving any thought to the possible misuse of that information, and whether it can be trusted to safeguard the information it collects from the prying eyes of the U.S. government.”
Read the patent here: http://insidegoogle.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/07/US20100020776.pdf
Read the letter here: http://insidegoogle.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/07/LtrWaxman071910.pdf
In addition, White House visitor logs show that Alan Davidson, Google’s Director of Public Policy and Government Affairs, has had at least three meetings with officials of the National Security Council since the beginning of last year. One of the meetings, was with White House senior director for Russian affairs Mike McFaul, while another was with Middle East advisor Daniel Shapiro.
It has also been widely reported that Google has been working in “partnership” with the National Security Agency, the very same government body that illegally intercepted the private communications of millions of Americans during the Bush administration.
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.