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Consumer Watchdog Invites Google To Participate In Internet Policy Conference

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Tue, Sep 14, 2010 at 12:05 pm

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Consumer Watchdog Invites Google To Participate In Internet Policy Conference

SANTA MONICA, CA – Consumer Watchdog today 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 this fall as part of its Inside Google project.

The invitation came in a letter to CEO Eric Schmidt and co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin. It was prompted by Google’s promotional campaign this week in Washington highlighting its privacy tools and a House Judiciary Subcommittee on Courts and Competition hearing Thursday on competition in digital markets.

“Rather than a mere one-sided PR effort, we invite you to engage in a serious discussion about concerns raised by your critics,” wrote Jamie Court, Consumer Watchdog president and John M. Simpson, director of the group’s Inside Google project. “The time has come for a serious and thoughtful discussion of the concerns that have been raised.  Google’s voice would be an integral part of any such examination and we invite you to join us.”

“Certainly Google and Consumer Watchdog are on opposite sides on a number of issues,” the letter said. “Nonetheless we hope that you do agree the best way to resolve policy questions, once they have been brought to the public’s attention, is through honest, open discussion. That is true to the values espoused by your founders and is precisely the goal of our policy summit.”

Read the letter here.

The conference is tentatively set for Oct. 14, however, Consumer Watchdog would re-schedule the event at another time by the end of the year if that date were inconvenient for Google.

Consumer Watchdog said the conference would include a variety of participants with different perspectives who would offer presentations in such broad areas as:

Google and Privacy: Discussions would focus on the company’s policies and broader privacy implications of online activity. The possibility and usefulness of Do Not Track Me legislation would be examined.

Google and Business. How has Google affected businesses? What is Google’s impact on creative industries and the news business? Do Google’s activities raise antitrust concerns?

Google and Government. What are the implications of Google’s Government Cloud? Does Google enjoy a special relationship with the current administration? What data does Google share with law enforcement and intelligence agencies and under what circumstances?

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 325,000 times.

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 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.

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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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This post was written by:

John M. Simpson

- who has written 362 posts on Inside Google.

John M. Simpson is a leading voice on technological privacy and stem cell research issues. His investigations this year of Google’s online privacy practices and book publishing agreements triggered intense media scrutiny and federal interest in the online giant’s business practices. His critique of patents on human embryonic stem cells has been key to expanding the ability of American scientists to conduct stem cell research. He has ensured that California’s taxpayer-funded stem cell research will lead to broadly accessible and affordable medicine and not just government-subsidized profiteering. Prior to joining Consumer Watchdog in 2005, he was executive editor of Tribune Media Services International, a syndication company. Before that, he was deputy editor of USA Today and editor of its international edition. Simpson taught journalism a Dublin City University in Ireland, and consulted for The Irish Times and The Gleaner in Jamaica. He served as president of the World Editors Forum. He holds a B.A. in philosophy from Harpur College of SUNY Binghamton and was a Gannett Fellow at the Center for Asian and Pacific Studies at the University of Hawaii. He has an M.A. in Communication Management from USC’s Annenberg School for Communication.

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