New Times Square ad targets Google for failure to debate privacy

Wed, Sep 29, 2010 at 12:56 pm

    New Times Square ad targets Google for failure to debate privacy

    SANTA MONICA, CA – Consumer Watchdog has placed a digital advertisement in Times Square calling Internet giant Google “chicken” for its failure to accept the public interest group’s challenge to debate measures to protect consumers’ online privacy. The ad is running during “AdWeek” in New York City, at which Google has a major presence.

    “Why won’t Google debate your privacy with Consumer Watchdog?” the Jumbotron ad asks. It then displays an image of a chicken labeled with Google’s logo. Another frame of the ad reads, “Google = chicken.”

    View a video of the 30-second advertisement here:

    “Google’s executives are discussing new frontiers of ad exploitation in presentations at New York AdWeek and sponsoring political discussions at Washington events, but they won’t engage in a meaningful discussion of the company’s most fundamental issue: online privacy,” said Jamie Court president of Consumer Watchdog, and author of The Progressive’s Guide To Raising Hell (Chelsea Green, September 2010). “What is Google afraid of?”

    New York Adweek is a week-long series of more than 200 different events focusing on the advertising industry.  Google itself has recently erected a billboard in Times Square to promote the company’s display advertising.

    Consumer Watchdog has invited Google to participate in a conference, “Google, The Internet And The Future,” that the nonpartisan, nonprofit public interest group plans to host in Washington.  Consumer Watchdog has offered to coordinate with Google to schedule the event at time convenient for the company.

    “Google is essential to any discussion of online privacy,” said John M. Simpson, director of the group’s Inside Google Project. “We intend to be as flexible as possible to ensure Google’s participation.”

    Earlier this month Consumer Watchdog launched an animated video, “Don’t Be Evil?” with an ad on a Jumbotron in New York’s Times Square that was intended to focus attention on Google’s online privacy policies and build support for “Do Not Track Me” legislation to protect consumers online.  Since the satirical video was launched, it has been viewed more than 355,000 times. View the video here:

    As part of the campaign, Consumer Watchdog sought to buy ads criticizing Google through its AdWords program.  Initially the ads were rejected, according to Google, for this reason: “Trademark in Ad Text.” However, after Consumer Watchdog wrote a letter to CEO Eric Schmidt arguing that because of its dominance over the Internet Google “has a moral obligation to let critics communicate with Internet users via Google search,” the company switched its position and ran the ads.

    Consumers must have control over their personal information, Consumer Watchdog said. The group has called on Google to offer a “make-me-anonymous” button prominently on its home page that allows users’ online activity not to be tracked if they wish.

    The group has also called for “Do Not Track Me” legislation that would prevent companies from gathering personal information online, just as Congress had the Federal Trade Commission created a Do Not Call list to prevent intrusive telemarketers from invading consumers’ privacy.

    Privacy protection is overwhelmingly popular. 80% of Americans support a ‘Do Not Track Me’ list according to a Consumer Watchdog-sponsored national poll conducted in July by Grove Insight. 90% said that it is important to “have more laws that protect privacy of your personal information” online. The poll found strong support for a variety of Internet privacy protections:

    –Require the creation of an “anonymous button” that allows individuals to stop anyone from tracking their online searches or purchases: 86% favor; 9% oppose.

    — Ban the collection of any personal data on children under the age of 18:  84% favor; 10% oppose.

    — Prevent online companies from tracking personal information or web searches without your explicit, written approval: 84% favor; 11% oppose.

    — Ban online companies from tracking and storing information related to children’s online behavior so they can target them with advertising:  83% favor; 12% oppose.

    — Require the creation of a “do not track me” list for online companies that would be administered by the Federal Trade Commission: 80% favor; 12% oppose.

    Read the poll’s topline results here:

    Read Grove Ltd.’s poll analysis here:

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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 Visit our new Google Privacy and Accountability Project website:

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