Consumer Watchdog Asks Senate Panel To Explore Breakup of Google; Asks FTC to Open Inquiry Into Deceptive Mortgage Advertisements

Wed, Sep 21, 2011 at 10:19 am

    Consumer Watchdog Asks Senate Panel To Explore Breakup of Google; Asks FTC to Open Inquiry Into Deceptive Mortgage Advertisements

    WASHINGTON, DC – Consumer Watchdog today told a Senate committee that Google’s

    reach is so pervasive on the Internet that consumers cannot avoid its massive data collection apparatus. The public interest group said one possible remedy is breaking up the Internet giant, which exercises monopoly power over search and consumer data.

    Do Not Track regulations are necessary to protect consumers from the Internet giant’s pervasive data collection.

    In a separate letter to the Federal Trade Commission, the public interest group asked that its request to investigate Google’s involvement into deceptive mortgage advertising be considered in light of Google’s recent $500 million settlement to avoid criminal charges for illegal drug advertisements. CEO Larry Page condoned the activity, according to a U.S. Attorney.

    “There is no way to avoid Google if you use the Internet, even if you don’t use Google’s services, because the company tracks consumers’ movements on and between most websites. When a company has accumulated so much power that a consumer cannot avoid its reach, then it’s time that we consider either regulating it like a utility or breaking it up,” said John M. Simpson, Consumer Watchdog’s Privacy Project Director.

    Consumer Watchdog first called for Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt to testify to Congress a year and a half ago. The group submitted written testimony to the Senate Judiciary Antitrust Subcommittee advocating:

    · “Do Not Track Me” legislation to give consumers the ability to prevent Google, or any company, from tracking their online and mobile activity.

    · An FTC investigation into deceptive mortgage advertising and if Google is knowingly facilitating it.

    · Consideration of a breakup of Google. Search could be separated from advertising. Gmail and the new social networking service, Google +, could be spun off as a separate entity, as could YouTube and enterprise services.

    · New rules to regulate search like the public utility it has become.

    Schmidt testifies at 2 p.m. today before the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust, Competition Policy and Consumer Rights.

    “The Internet is too important to allow an unregulated monopolist to dominate it. Google’s unfettered ability to exercise monopoly power with our data must be checked by giving consumers the right to control how data about our online activities is used, or preventing Google from gathering it all,” said Simpson.

    Read the testimony here:

    Read the letter to the FTC here:

    “Now that it’s clear CEO Larry Page condoned illegal drug sales, the question is what other deceptive, illegal and harmful ads is Google willing to offer in the quest for greater profits?” Simpson wrote to FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz.

    Simpson said in written testimony submitted to the Subcommittee:

    “Information is power and Google has amassed more data than anyone. How did Google gain this monopoly position in consumer personal data? Very simply. The company tracked us all around the Internet and gave us no choice over whether our data was collected or not. Google tracks consumers around the Web, logs every search query and YouTube video watched and records the location of Android smartphone users.

    “Google’s presence on the Internet is so pervasive that consumers cannot escape its reach even if they do not use its services. Google’s ad network puts down tracking cookies and records consumers activities as they surf the Internet. It is this immense database of consumer information, intentions and desires that gives the Internet giant its power…

    “Google Chairman Eric Schmidt has said: “I actually think people don’t want Google to answer their questions. They want Google to be telling them what they should be doing next.” This shows the depth of Google’s and Schmidt’s arrogance. They actually believe that consumers would prefer Google make choices for them, rather than make those choices themselves.”

    Before the hearing, a troupe of mimes – dressed in white “Google Track Team” suits and wearing Google “Wi-Spy” glasses – will track (follow) people around Dirksen Senate Office Building where the Judiciary hearing will be held. They will dramatize how Google is recording everything consumers do on the Internet by tracking Capitol-goers.

    Consumer Watchdog will also follow people around Capitol Hill in a Google-branded ice cream truck and give away “free ice cream,” to demonstrate that there is no free ice cream and Google’s supposedly free services in fact come at the cost of our privacy.

    On Monday Consumer Watchdog launched an animated video titled “Supercharge” on Monday satirizing Google CEO Larry Page and Chairman Eric Schmidt, which exposes actual quotes by the executives and shows the two stalking a United States Senator in a Google ice cream truck, using the signal in his Android mobile phone. It is the third in a series of avatar style animated videos. The first two featured Eric Schmidt. The latest also includes CEO Larry Page.

    “Supercharge” VIDEO LINK:

    “Mr. Schmidt Goes to Washington” VIDEO LINK:

    “Don’t Be Evil” VIDEO LINK:

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