Google OKs critical ads after Consumer Watchdog’s letter to CEO Eric Schmidt

Google has now decided  to run ads from Consumer Watchdog critical of the Internet giant’s privacy practices and aimed to promote a satirical animated video of CEO Eric Schmidt.

We bought three ads, linked to search terms like ” Google CEO Eric Schmidt” and “CEO Eric Schmidt Privacy.” Google disapproved  them giving as a reason, “Trademark in Ad Text.” Thursday Consumer Watchdog President Jamie Court and I wrote Schmidt arguing that the company had a moral obligation to display advertising from critics.

“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,” we said.

We also criticized Schmidt for his Orwellian remarks in Berlin this week while on a supposed European charm offensive. That’s when he 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 like… A near-term future in which you don’t forget anything, because the computer remembers. You’re never lost.”

We haven’t heard back about the privacy concerns voiced in the letter. In fact we haven’t received any word from Google notifying us of the flip-flop on the ad approval.  I leaned of it when CNET reporter Tom Krazit contacted me for a story he was working on. He said that he had asked Google about our letter to Schmidt and was told the ads had been approved and were running.

We checked, and our Google AdWords manager and found they had been approved. And, as you can see,  a search on  “google ceo eric schmidt” displayed one of our messages.

Google finally did the right thing and deserves credit for that. Now I just hope they treat everyone the same way and ensure equal access for any critic’s advertisements, not just organizations that manage — like Consumer Watchdog — to buy space on a Jumbotron in Times Square and write a letter to the CEO.

Oh, and now that the ads are approved, we’ve extended the campaign for another week.  Thanks, Eric.

Published by John M. Simpson

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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