Consumer Watchdog Calls On Gov. Cuomo to Remove Google Chairman Eric Schmidt From NY Smart Schools Panel And Block Company From Providing Tech To Schools

SANTA MONICA, CA — Consumer Watchdog, a national public interest group, today expressed deep concern about New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s appointment of Google Chairman Eric Schmidt to the New York Smart Schools Commission to advise the state on how to invest proceeds from the proposed $2 billion bond act and bring technology into classrooms statewide.

In letter sent last week to the governor, Jamie Court, president of the nonpartisan nonprofit group, and John M. Simpson, Consumer Watchdog Privacy Project director, wrote that Cuomo should:

— Preclude Google from providing any of the new technology to the state’s schools given the conflict of interest created by Schmidt’s appointment.

— Remove Schmidt from the Commission immediately given Google’s disregard for students’ privacy and the potential for self-dealing.

“It is entirely inappropriate for a top of executive of a company likely to be considered as provider of technology to advise the state on what technology to adopt. This is not the fox guarding the chicken coop, but rather the fox building the coop,” Court and Simpson wrote. “The chickens in this case are children whose privacy Google has shown a consistent disrespect for, making Schmidt a doubly distressful choice for the Commission.”

Read Consumer Watchdog’s letter here: http://www.consumerwatchdog.org/resources/ltrcuomojcjs.pdf

Consumer Watchdog’s letter cited a recent Education Week article outlining how Google data mines student’s data from its Google Apps for Education services, likely in violation of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). “Taking advice from the executive of a company engaged in such dubious practices is simply wrong,” the letter said.

Read the Education Week article here: http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2014/03/13/26google.h33.html

The Consumer Watchdog letter also noted a Washington Post article that explained how “The behind-the-scenes machinations demonstrate how Google — once a lobbying weakling — has come to master a new method of operating in modern-day Washington, where spending on traditional lobbying is rivaled by other, less visible forms of influence. That system includes financing sympathetic research at universities and think tanks, investing in nonprofit advocacy groups across the political spectrum and funding pro-business coalitions cast as public-interest projects.”

Read the Post article here: http://www.washingtonpost.com/Politics/How-Google-Is-Transforming-Power-And-Politicsgoogle-Once-Disdainful-Of-Lobbying-Now-A-Master-Of-Washington-Influence/2014/04/12/51648b92-B4d3-11e3-8cb6-284052554d74_Story.html

“Schmidt, who by the way sits on the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, is a master of inserting himself into positions where he can drive policy decisions in the direction that Google favors,” Court and Simpson wrote. “That is precisely what is happening with the New York Smart Schools Commission and such self-dealing must not be tolerated when it comes to the best interests of New York State’s children.”

Consumer Watchdog’s letter concluded:

“No one doubts the urgency of bringing technology into our schools.  We believe you should be commended for proposing the $2 billion bond that will go before New York voters in November. However, allowing one person from the gargantuan company that so dominates the Internet to play a primary role in shaping the policy is unfair and wrong.  We call upon you to block Google from supplying technology under the bond act should it be approved by the voters and for you to remove Eric Schmidt from the Smart Schools Commission immediately.”

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Visit our website at www.consumerwatchdog.org

Published by John M. Simpson

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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