Consumer Watchdog To Google CEO: Berlin Comments At Odds With Personal Privacy And Orwellian; Search Ads For Animation Critical Of Google Should Be Seen On Google

Thu, Sep 9, 2010 at 10:28 am

    Consumer Watchdog To Google CEO: Berlin Comments At Odds With Personal Privacy And Orwellian; Search Ads For Animation Critical Of Google Should Be Seen On Google

    SANTA MONICA, CA — New comments by Google CEO Eric Schmidt in Berlin show the top executive of the Internet giant fails “to recognize that the direction Google is currently heading is inexorably at odds with the notion of personal privacy,” Consumer Watchdog said today.  Schmidt said, among other things, “We can suggest what you should do next, what you care about. Imagine: we know where you are, we know what you like.”

    The criticism came in a letter to Schmidt from Consumer Watchdog President Jamie Court and Consumer advocate John M. Simpson protesting Google’s rejection of the nonpartisan, nonprofit public interest group’s request for three search word advertisements promoting an animated satirical video that depicts Schmidt distributing free ice cream to children and taking their personal information. The “Don’t Be Evil?” animation has had more than 300,000 views online over the last week and can be viewed at http://insidegoogle.com/2010/08/do-not-track-me/. It’s being promoted on a Times Square jumbotron in New York.

    Reacting to statements Schmidt made in Berlin this week, the letter said,  “Privacy is all about personal control — our ability to say ‘no’ to a company or government agency collecting our information, our ability to say ‘no’ to any person or group knowing where we are, what we like, and what we care about, so that it can suggest what we should do next.”

    Read the letter here:
    http://insidegoogle.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/LtrSchmidt090910JSF.pdf

    Schmidt told the IFA conference in Germany:

    Ultimately, search is not just the web but literally all of your information – your email, the things you care about, with your permission – this is personal search, for you and only for you….We can suggest what you should do next, what you care about. Imagine: We know where you are, we know what you likeA near-term future in which you don’t forget anything, because the computer remembers. You’re never lost.”

    “These statements are greatly disconcerting given Google’s lack of support for an anonymizer button — which we have called upon you to adopt for two years — or a publicly-maintained “Do Not Track Me” option,” the letter said. “They suggest an Orwellian future where deprivation of choice and independence are paternalistically justified as unparalleled advances in consumerism.”

    “Your comments in Berlin reaffirm the fact that Google is not just any other company. Google is becoming the Internet, and it has a moral obligation to let critics communicate with Internet users via Google search,” the letter said.

    The letter argued that, “A company that owns a search engine that controls 70% of the market and wants to know everything about us should at least let people buy search word advertisements that criticize it by name.”

    The video is an effort to make the public aware of how out of touch Schmidt and Google are when it comes to consumers’ privacy rights. The video is also meant to build support for  “Do Not Track Me” legislation in Congress.

    Consumer Watchdog first called for the Internet giant to give consumers meaningful control of their data two years ago. Read that letter here: http://www.consumerwatchdog.org/resources/JusticeGooglelet100208.pdf

    Google claims its search engine is an impartial and unbiased information locator.  That claim of search neutrality is under increasing skeptical scrutiny.  Friday it was revealed that the Texas Attorney General is raising antitrust concerns about whether Google favors its own services over those of competitors in search results.  European antitrust officials are also studying the issue.

    By denying advertisements that mention Google on Google’s search engine, the Internet giant only shows the danger of concentrating search in Google’s hands, Consumer Watchdog said.

    This position is consistent with Google’s hypocrisy in other areas, Consumer Watchdog said. For example, Google aggressively defends the right to track us anywhere and everywhere and promotes the value of open information, yet it has worked to keep from public view court documents in such cases as Rosetta Stone LTD v. Google Inc. and Vulcan Golf, LLC et al v. Google Inc. et al.

    Here is the text of the three rejected ads:

    — Can You Trust Google? CEO Eric Schmidt is collecting your every move. www.insideGoogle.com <http://www.insidegoogle.com> .

    — Trust Eric Schmidt? Google is collecting your private data and tracking your every move. www.insideGoogle.com <http://www.insideGoogle.com> .

    — Is Google Tracking You?
    CEO Eric Schmidt is collecting your data and tracking your every move. www.insideGoogle.com <http://www.insideGoogle.com> .

    In its initial response to the Consumer Watchdog video Google said, “We like ice cream as much as anyone, but we like privacy even more.”

    “As for your comments about liking ice cream, we are happy to buy you and the founders a scoop in honor of Google’s twelfth birthday at a shop of your choosing if you are open to discussing the possibility of supporting an anonymizer button and a “Do Not Track Me” function,” wrote Court and Simpson.

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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.

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    This post was written by:

    John M. Simpson

    - who has written 414 posts on Inside Google.


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