Consumer Watchdog has launched a rather unique effort in its bid to highlight its concerns over Google’s privacy policies and to push Congress to allow consumers to opt out of having their Web activities tracked by online firms.
Consumer Watchdog has launched a 540-square-foot animated ad, which is running twice an hour in New York’s Times Square, promoting the groups cartoon video that mocks Google’s privacy practices by showing the firm’s CEO Eric Schmidt offering free ice cream to children while he secretly collects information about them. The public interest group has been critical of Google on privacy and other issues and has launched a Web site focused on the Internet giant called Inside Google.
In the cartoon video, Schmidt is seen driving around in a Google ice cream truck and tells a group of children who run up to get the free ice cream he is offering that, “I already know your favorite flavors. Hold still while we collect some of your secrets. And if there is anything you don’t want anyone to know, well you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place,” the cartoonish Schmidt says with a sinister laugh refrencing a famous quote from the real Google CEO. “Remember kids you can’t believe everything your parents say about privacy,” as he goes on to tell each child what their parents have been doing on the Web.
The video ends with a voice telling viewers to call Congress and urge lawmakers to establish a “do not track” list. Consumer advocates have promoted the idea of such a list, which would be similar to the FTC’s Do-Not-Call Registry aimed at stopping unwanted telemarketing calls, to allow Internet users to block firms from tracking their Web activities. FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz has said the agency is considering proposing such a list, but it would have to be mandated by Congress.
Schmidt has come under fire for comments he made to the Wall Street Journal earlier this month when he suggested that children may want to change their names when they grow up to escape the mistakes of their youth that will have been recorded on Facebook and other social networking sites. He also predicted that Google one day will know so much about its users that they will want the firm “to tell them what they should be doing next.”
Google has argued that it allows consumers to protect their privacy by giving them more control over their information with such products as Google Dashboard, which provides users with a control panel for the information they store with their Google accounts, and its ad preferences manager that allows users to edit the categories used to target Internet ads at them or to opt-out of receiving such ads.