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FTC wrong to end Wi-Spy probe — public entitled to full account of abuses

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Wed, Oct 27, 2010 at 11:54 am

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FTC wrong to end Wi-Spy probe — public entitled to full account of abuses

SANTA MONICA, CA — The Federal Trade Commission’s two-page letter ending its probe of the Google Wi-Spy scandal is premature and wrong, Consumer Watchdog said today, and leaves the American public with no official full account of the Internet giant’s repeated invasions of consumer privacy.

The FTC’s failure to act makes it even more important for Congress to hold hearings on Google’s Wi-Spying, in which the company’s Street View cars gathered communications from private Wi-Fi networks in 30 countries around the word.

“Once again, Google, with its myriad of government connections, gets a free pass,” said John M. Simpson, director of the nonprofit, nonpartisan group’s Inside Google Project. “At a minimum the public deserved a full report about Google’s abuses from the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. Instead, the company announced a few steps that are little more than window dressing and the FTC caves in with a woefully inadequate two-page letter.”

Consumer Watchdog asked the FTC to investigate Google’s Wi-Spying last May.

Consumer Watchdog noted that privacy officials in the United Kingdom have re-opened an investigation of Google’s Wi-Spying and the company could face fines there. In the U.S. more than 35 state attorneys general are cooperating in a multi-state probe. A class action suit against Google has been consolidated in the Federal District For Northern California.

“It appears likely that the only way the American public will get to the bottom of the extent of Google’s Wi-Spying activities is through civil litigation or the state attorneys general investigation,” said Simpson.

Consumer Watchdog called on the states attorneys general to investigate in June.

Google’s announced tweaks to its internal privacy procedures last week after the Canadian Privacy Commissioner Jennifer Stoddart said her investigation found that Google’s Wi-Spying broke the law.

“The Canadians investigated and demonstrated that Google intercepted mails, URLs, passwords and other sensitive data. They documented the extent of Google’s abuse of Canada’s citizens,” said Simpson.  “I’d expect no less from our FTC; there is absolutely no excuse for shutting down their probe.”

Consumer Watchdog has been working to protect consumers’ online privacy rights and educate them about the issues through its Inside Google Project. The goal has been to convince Google of the social and economic importance of giving consumers control over their online lives. By persuading Google, the Internet’s leading company, to adopt adequate guarantees, its policies could become the gold standard for privacy for the industry, potentially improving the performance of the entire online sector.

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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 361 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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5 Responses to “FTC wrong to end Wi-Spy probe — public entitled to full account of abuses”

  1. Sarah Says:

    People seem to be forgetting the fact that Google didn’t accidentally or unintentionally gather information with 1 car in 1 country, but it was ALL cars in ALL countries, that means the software and the hardware that was being used to gather the information, was shared thru the company, world wide…Not just the United States,But Google didn’t know lol

  2. Sarah Says:

    The people of the United States have a right to know what kind of devices,hardware and what software was being used, we have a right to know what it looks like and where and what company developed what Google was using…Was it the same equipment for every country? How did it get there? How did it get here? Which was first? Someone somewhere has to give up this information, since this is what was being used to gather information, How can you guard yourself from the unknown? And just because someone secures their wifi does not mean it can’t not still be infiltrated….This means ALL COUNTRIES and ALL CARS

  3. mark Says:

    there is no question that this was intentional, not accidental, because the gathering of this information was specifically mentioned in their patent application.

  4. Tito Says:

    We need to plan a March to the FTC and let ourselves heard. Plan it John.

  5. Tosh Says:

    “Consumer Watchdog has been working to protect consumers’ online privacy rights and educate them about the issues through its Inside Google Project.”

    John, are you kidding us???

    EDUCATE about the issue?!?

    Nevermind educating millions of consumers who still use open unencrypted wifi on how to properly configure their routers. Consumer watchdog need more scandals, right?

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