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Consumer Watchdog Welcomes New Senate Privacy Panel, Calls For Wi-Spy and Do Not Track Hearings

CONTACT: , 310-392-7041; and Carmen Balber, 202-629-3043

Tue, Feb 15, 2011 at 10:21 am

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Consumer Watchdog Welcomes New Senate Privacy Panel, Calls For Wi-Spy and Do Not Track Hearings

WASHINGTON, DC — Consumer Watchdog today welcomed the creation of a new Senate subcommittee on Privacy, Technology and the Law, to be chaired by Sen. Al Franken, D-MN, and urged the panel to hold hearings on the Google Wi-Spy scandal. The nonpartisan, nonprofit public interest group also said the new committee should consider Do Not Track Me legislation.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-VT, said the jurisdiction of the Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology and the Law will include: oversight of laws and policies governing the collection, protection, use, and dissemination of commercial information by the private sector, including online behavioral advertising; privacy within social networking websites and other online privacy issues; enforcement and implementation of commercial information privacy laws and policies; use of technology by the private sector to protect privacy, enhance transparency and encourage innovation; privacy standards for the collection, retention, use and dissemination of personally identifiable commercial information; and privacy implications of new or emerging technologies.

“Online technologies raise a multitude of challenges to consumers’ privacy rights and it’s important to have a Senate panel specifically charged with confronting those issues,” said John M. Simpson, director of Consumer Watchdog’s Inside Google Project. “The committee should immediately take up one of the largest privacy intrusions in history, the Google Wi-Spy scandal, and focus as well on Do Not Track Me legislation.”

Read the letter to Franken and Ranking Member Tom Coburn here: http://www.consumerwatchdog.org/resources/ltrfranken021511.pdf

In the Wi-Spy incident, Google’s Street View cars gathered private data from consumers’ Wi-Fi networks in more than 30 countries around the world. So far there has been no adequate public explanation from Google of what the Internet giant intended to do with the information. More than 35 state attorneys general and the FCC are investigating. Charges are pending in a number of countries.

Last week Rep. Jackie Speier, D-CA, introduced the HR 654, “Do Not Track Me Online Act.”  Sen. Mark Pryor, D-AR, has been considering offering Do Not Track legislation in the Senate.

Many observers believe that privacy may emerge as an area of bi-partisan consensus.  Oklahoma Republican Tom Coburn will serve as the subcommittee’s ranking member.  Other Democratic Senators on the panel will include Chuck Schumer of New York, Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut.

Before his election to the Senate last November, Blumenthal was attorney general in Connecticut and led the Wi-Spy probe on behalf of the state attorneys general.

In addition to Sen. Coburn Republican Senators on the subcommittee will include Orrin Hatch of Utah and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.

Consumer Watchdog has been working to protect consumers’ online privacy rights and educate them about the issues through its Inside Google Project. Its 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 would become the gold standard for privacy for the industry, potentially improving the performance of the entire online sector.

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Consumer Watchdog, 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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