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New Consumer Watchdog Animation “Mr. Schmidt Goes to Washington” Goes Street View With Mobile Advertising Van in DC To Call For Google Hearings

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Wed, Jan 26, 2011 at 9:57 am

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New Consumer Watchdog Animation “Mr. Schmidt Goes to Washington” Goes Street View With Mobile Advertising Van in DC To Call For Google Hearings

WASHINGTON, DC – Consumer Watchdog’s new animated satire, “Mr. Schmidt Goes to Washington,” debuted today on the streets of Washington, DC, to make the case for why Congress should call Google CEO Eric Schmidt to testify under oath about the Wi-Spy scandal and other online privacy issues. The group also said the company’s close relationship with the US government should be probed.

The avatar-style animation is being displayed on a mobile digital advertising truck equipped with stereo sound that will travel for one week across Capitol Hill, downtown, and busy District thoroughfares. The animation shows Google’s CEO testifying before Congress using real-life, creepy quotes from Schmidt about privacy to make the case for why Congress should question him.

Watch the video here.

“We are using Mr. Schimdt’s own words in this satire to dramatize how outrageous it is that Congress has failed to question one of the most powerful CEOs in America after he has shown such disregard for our personal privacy and his company has committed the largest wire-tapping breach in history,” said Jamie Court, president of Consumer Watchdog.

“Mr. Schmidt” is a sequel to Consumer Watchdog’s first “Don’t Be Evil?” animation — click here to view it — which had nearly 400,000 views after its Times Square Superscreen debut.

“Google spent $5.2 million lobbying last year – up from $4.03 million in 2009 — to convince Congress that nothing is wrong. The company has repeatedly refused to answer questions about its activities – making no response to Consumer Watchdog reports, rejecting multiple invitations appear at our recent privacy conference with officials representing the Federal Trade Commission and Commerce Department, and even failing to comply with a subpoena by the state attorneys general,” said John M. Simpson, Inside Google director, “Clearly Google’s executives won’t answer tough questions until they come from Congress.”

For three years, Google street view cars collected private information from Wi-Fi networks from millions of homes in 30 nations. The incident was the largest wire-tapping scandal in history yet Congress has not held a single hearing. Consumer Watchdog seeks to have Schmidt answer questions such as:

  • Why did Google gather data from the Wi-Fi networks?
  • What plans were there to use the data?
  • Who authorized the project and supervised it?
  • Who at Google has used, analyzed or otherwise accessed payload data and for what purpose?
  • If the data was collected “by accident,” why did Google seek a patent on the process that was used to gather the data?
  • How can Google assure us this won’t happen again?
  • How many Americans’ private information was collected by Google?
  • What kind of information was collected? Emails, passwords, financial information, medical data, searches, videos? What else?

This week Consumer Watchdog forwarded a report about Google’s inappropriate relationships with the US government to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, calling for hearings. In a letter to Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, Consumer Watchdog raised these concerns:

  • There is a cozy relationship with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration that gives Google unique access to Moffett Field near Google’s headquarters, where a fleet of jets and helicopters stands ready to serve Google executives. The benefits of the arrangement to date appear to be nothing more than allowing Google executives a launch pad for corporate junkets documented in the report. Others, including a non-profit humanitarian group, have sought, but been denied, use of the airfield.
  • Google’s close ties with the Obama White House have raised concerns about possible special treatment or conflicts of interest at the Department of Homeland Security, the US Patent & Trademark Office, the Federal Communications Commission and NASA.
  • Officials at both DHS and the FCC have raised pointed concerns about weak privacy protections in Google products and whether Google’s well-documented difficulties with privacy protection could create big problems for federal agencies that use its services.
  • A secretive relationship with the National Security Agency. The search giant has a legitimate need to cooperate with the government’s mammoth and secretive code breaking agency in its efforts to defend the integrity of U.S. computer networks. But NSA also has legal power to force Google to hand over the private information of its users. How Google executives handle this potentially conflicted relationship is largely unknown: neither Google nor the NSA are talking.

Click here to read a copy of the report, Lost in the Cloud: Google and the US Government.

In the animation, CEO Schmidt dons “Wi-Spy” glasses that allow him to see the personal details of the Senator questioning him. The animation was donated by artists and consultants concerned about Google’s practices who want to remain anonymous out of concern about retribution against them.

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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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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