Consumer Watchdog Asks Senator Kohl To Recall Google’s Schmidt As Witness

Fri, Oct 7, 2011 at 11:15 am

    Noting (as I did on Monday) that Schmidt had basically recanted his contrite testimony before Congress in basically calling the government slow and stupid in a Washington Post interview, Consumer Watchdog said in a letter to Senate chairman Herb Kohl that Schmidt should be recalled to testify by the Senate Antitrust Subcommittee:

    “It’s rare that a multi-billionaire executive would in effect publicly call our elected and appointed government officials a group of backward, money-grubbing morons who don’t have the right or the knowledge to regulate your company,” Consumer Watchdog’s President Jamie Court and Privacy Project Director John Simpson wrote to Schmidt in a letter they also sent to U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust, Competition Policy and Consumer Rights.

    In the interview, Schmidt basically said that there should be no antitrust concerns about a free service like Google’s. In response, Consumer Watchdog wrote:

    The fact is, Google’s services are not free. The price of using Google services – and of not using Google services but merely visiting Internet sites in your advertising network or those equipped with Google analytics – is that information about us is collected and stored without our consent. The same is true for Android mobile phones. Google then sells access to users to corporate advertisers of all stripes, regardless of whether we wanted to share that information or whether we want Google to market us. Google’s services will never be free until Google agrees that its users have the right to choose not to give up their personal information as the cost of using those services, visiting the Internet or activating their mobile phones.

    “When Google finally respects the “Do Not Track Me” signal sent by the other three major Internet browsers, and when Google’s Chrome browser offers a “Do Not Track Me” option that is respected by Google, then you can argue Google’s services are free. Until then, there should be little doubt that Google users’ information is Google’s true product, and the price it gets from advertisers for access to us is 96% of its total revenue – advertising income….

    Given scandals like the illegal violation of privacy in the Wi-Spy eavesdropping on home wi-fi and criminal settlement of the advertising of illegal prescription drug sites, Consumer Watchdog argued that Google is hardly in a position to talk about the blamelessness of business executives and overzealous regulation by the government.

    Twisting the knife just a bit, Consumer Watchdog noted that if Google was so contemptuous of government, why was the company pushing so hard to receive government contracts for its online services?

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