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Inside Google » Press Releases http://insidegoogle.com A Consumer Watchdog Investigation Thu, 28 Aug 2014 02:57:15 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.3 Consumer Privacy Groups Stress Opposition To Settlement In Google Privacy Suit http://insidegoogle.com/2014/08/consumer-privacy-groups-stress-opposition-to-settlement-in-google-privacy-suit/ http://insidegoogle.com/2014/08/consumer-privacy-groups-stress-opposition-to-settlement-in-google-privacy-suit/#comments Wed, 27 Aug 2014 21:34:56 +0000 http://insidegoogle.com/?p=10435 SANTA MONICA, CA — Five consumer privacy groups today emphasized their continuing opposition to a proposed $8.5 million settlement in a class action suit against Google for privacy violations in the way it handled users’ search data because the chanel espadrilles proposed deal provides no benefit to class members.

In a letter to Judge Edward J. Davila, the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), Consumer Watchdog, Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, the Center for Digital Democracy and Patient Privacy Rights said:

“First, the proposed settlement fails to require Google to make any substantive changes to its business practices; second, it provides no monetary relief to the class; and third, the proposed cy pres allocations do not meet the Ninth Circuit’s requirements for alignment with the interests of class members.”

Read the groups’ letter here: http://www.consumerwatchdog.org/resources/cpo-ltr-judge-davila-re-gaos.pdf

The final fairness hearing in the case, known as the Google Referrer Header Litigation, is before Judge Davaila on Friday in U.S. District Court in San Jose, CA.

“As the date of the final fairness hearing approaches, we respectfully urge you to address the ‘obvious deficiencies’ we identified in our letter to you last year,” the groups wrote.

Read the groups’ earlier letter here: http://www.consumerwatchdog.org/resources/epicetal-inregoogle-10-13.pdf

The five consumer privacy groups have also asked the Federal Trade Commission and the California Attorney General to oppose the settlement.

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Consumer Privacy Groups Urge Obama To Propose Strong Privacy Law http://insidegoogle.com/2014/08/consumer-privacy-groups-urge-obama-to-propose-strong-privacy-law/ http://insidegoogle.com/2014/08/consumer-privacy-groups-urge-obama-to-propose-strong-privacy-law/#comments Tue, 05 Aug 2014 23:51:00 +0000 http://insidegoogle.com/?p=10377 SANTA MONICA, CA — Consumer Watchdog has joined with six other consumer privacy organizations in calling for President Obama to propose strong privacy legislation in the groups’ comments on the White House report on “big data.”

“Enacting baseline privacy legislation that implements a strong and resonant Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights (CPBR) is the single most effective way to answer the public’s call for basic online privacy rights, ensure trust in the online marketplace, and create a level playing field for online businesses,” the groups wrote in their filing.

There are six key recommendations that a privacy law should include that would strengthen the Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights, the groups said.  They are:  Make it consequential; Fill in the blanks of the Fair Information Practice Principles (FIPPS); Recognize the real harms and significant risks; Carve out special protections for sensitive categories; and Implement practical solutions.

Read the groups’ joint letter to the the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration here:  http://www.consumerwatchdog.org/resources/ntia_big_data_comments_final.pdf

The groups said that as the White House looks to its legacy, implementing a strong and comprehensive Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights “would be an iconic moment in American consumer protection.”

“The privacy bill should be a benchmark for modern consumer protection that respects Americans’ deep history of personal privacy in a technology context,” the groups said. “We believe that it’s preferable for the Administration to propose nothing, rather than a weak bill that does little to advance privacy protections.”

The letter concluded: “The proposal and enactment of strong consumer privacy legislation in the context of the CPBR is essential toward achieving the complimentary goals of protecting the privacy rights of consumers, maintaining consumer trust online and supporting business innovation.”

In addition to Consumer Watchdog the following organizations joined in the comments: American Civil Liberties Union, Center for Digital Democracy, Consumer Action, Consumer Federation of America, Common Sense Media and Privacy Rights Clearinghouse.

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Google Spends $5 Million Lobbying In 2nd Quarter Leading 15 Tech, Communications Firms http://insidegoogle.com/2014/07/google-spends-5-million-lobbying-in-2nd-quarter-leading-15-tech-communications-firms/ http://insidegoogle.com/2014/07/google-spends-5-million-lobbying-in-2nd-quarter-leading-15-tech-communications-firms/#comments Tue, 22 Jul 2014 18:47:48 +0000 http://insidegoogle.com/?p=10331 Facebook Spending Up 100 Percent As Amazon Tops $1 Million For First Time

SANTA MONICA, CA — Google spent $5.03 million on lobbying in the second quarter of 2014, matching a company record and well ahead of spending by 14 other technology and communications companies, according to records just filed with the Clerk of the House of Representatives and analyzed today by Consumer Watchdog.

Google’s spending matched its record amount for a single quarter, which was set in the first quarter of 2012.  It was a 50 percent increase from $3.36 million in the second quarter of 2013.  Second quarter lobbying disclosure reports were due Monday night.

Facebook, which has substantially increased its Washington presence over the last two years, doubled down on its efforts to buy influence in Washington. It spent $2.12 million, an increase of 100 percent in 2014 from $1.06 million in 2013.  The amount was a slight decline from the first quarter of 2014 when the social networking giant spent $2.78 million.

“Power in Washington is all about who has the money and is willing to spend it,” said John M. Simpson, Consumer Watchdog’s Privacy Project director. “This group of powerful companies, led by Internet giant Google, is clearly willing to spend whatever the companies think necessary to buy the laws and regulations they want.”

Amazon set a company record for its spending, topping a $1 million in a quarter for the first time. Amazon spent $1.06 million in the second quarter of 2014, a 23 percent increase from $860,000 in 2013.

Google’s archrival Microsoft, which until recently had outspent Google on lobbying efforts, spent $2.34 million, a 21 percent decrease from $2.96 million in 2013.

“These lobbying disclosure statements don’t include payments to trade associations or the sort of ‘soft’ lobbying that has become a Google trademark – funds to think tanks and academic research centers,” noted Simpson. “When all that is factored in, the amounts are staggering. Policy making is no longer about what’s right; it’s all about the money.”

Here is a link to the Clerk of the House’s Lobbying Disclosure database: http://disclosures.house.gov/ld/ldsearch.aspx

Here are the second quarter lobbying amounts for the six other tech firms:
– Apple spent $840,000 in 2014, a 22 percent increase from $690,000 million in 2013.
– Cisco spent $720,000 in 2014, a 31 percent decrease from $900,000 in 2013.
– IBM spent $1.69 million in 2014, a 10 percent decrease from $1.88 million in 2013
– Intel spent $779,000.00in 2014, a 7 percent increase from $730,000 in 2013.
– Oracle spent $1.46 million in 2014, a 12 percent decrease from $1.66 million in 2013.
– Yahoo spent $770,000 in 2014, a 7 percent increase from $720,000 in 2013.

Here are second quarter lobbying expenditures for three telecommunications companies:
– AT&T spent $3.82 million, a 2 percent increase from $3.74 million in 2013.
– Sprint spent $728,365, a 12 percent increase from $652,546 in 2013.
– Verizon spent $3.47 million, a 6 percent increase from $3.27 million in 2013

Here are lobbying expenditures for two cable companies:
– Comcast spent $4.45 million, a 19 percent decrease from $5.47 million in 2013.
– Time Warner Cable spent $1.90 million, a 4 percent decrease from $1.97 million in 2013.

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Consumer Watchdog Warns DMV Not To Let Google Rush Driverless Car Deployment http://insidegoogle.com/2014/06/consumer-watchdog-warns-dmv-not-to-let-google-rush-driverless-car-deployment/ http://insidegoogle.com/2014/06/consumer-watchdog-warns-dmv-not-to-let-google-rush-driverless-car-deployment/#comments Tue, 10 Jun 2014 21:51:23 +0000 http://insidegoogle.com/?p=10282 SANTA MONICA, CA – Consumer Watchdog today warned the California Department of Motor Vehicles not to succumb to pressure from Google and others with a vested interest in developing “driverless cars” to rush to adopt regulations for the pubic use of the vehicles that are inadequate to protect our safety.

“We urge the DMV to follow a sensible and deliberate approach that would require adequate testing and time to analyze the test results,” wrote John M. Simpson, Consumer Watchdog’s Privacy Project director, in a letter to DMV Director Jean Shiomoto.

Read Consumer Watchdog’s letter here: http://www.consumerwatchdog.org/resources/ltrdmvdriverless061014.pdf

The DMV has just published regulations that take effect Sept. 16 governing manufacturers’ testing of autonomous vehicles – “driverless cars” — on California highways. The department is now drafting regulations that will regulate the public use of the vehicles and expects to adopt them late in December.

“In the ideal rule-making process, regulations covering the public use of autonomous vehicles would not be adopted until they could be informed by the results of testing that was done under DMV regulation,” wrote Simpson. “Unfortunately the Legislature, under pressure from Google and the tech industry, required in SB 1298 that the regulations for both testing and public use be adopted by Jan. 1, 2015.”

Consumer Watchdog noted that the testing rules require reports explaining when and why a test driver had to take over operation of the car and the details of any accidents. The first such testing reports would cover the period from when a test vehicle received a permit – presumably Sept. 16 – through Nov. 30, 2015.  These reports would be due by Jan. 1, 2016.

Consumer Watchdog urged the DMV’s public use driverless car rules to include a provision that a driverless car must be tested for at least a year under DMV regulation and that at least six months be given to analyze the test results before a vehicle could be offered to the public.  Under Consumer Watchdog’s proposed regulation, the earliest time a “driverless car” could be approved for public use on California’s highways would be July 1, 2016.

“We call on the DMV to ensure the safety of the public is put well ahead of the self-serving agendas of the manufactures,” wrote Simpson.  “There can be no doubt that Google is pushing to deploy autonomous vehicles as fast as it can.  The Department of Motor Vehicles must not succumb to the Internet giant’s pressure.”

One of the key safety provisions of the testing regulations is the requirement that there must be a test driver in the driver’s seat who is capable of assuming control of the car if there is a problem, Consumer Watchdog said.

“Little more than a week after the DMV adopted the testing regulations, Google announced plans for a fleet of driverless cars that have no steering wheel, brake pedal or accelerator,” wrote Simpson. “There would be no way for an occupant to take control in an emergency; occupants would be captives of Google’s technology, completely at the Internet giant’s mercy.”

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Consumer Watchdog Praises EU’s “Right To Be Forgotten” Ruling As Privacy Victory http://insidegoogle.com/2014/05/consumer-watchdog-praises-eus-right-to-be-forgotten-ruling-as-privacy-victory/ http://insidegoogle.com/2014/05/consumer-watchdog-praises-eus-right-to-be-forgotten-ruling-as-privacy-victory/#comments Tue, 13 May 2014 19:19:48 +0000 http://insidegoogle.com/?p=10227 SANTA MONICA, — Consumer Watchdog today praised the highest European court’s ruling that people have a “right to be forgotten” and can have online search results linking to outdated, irrelevant information removed.

“This is a substantial victory for the right to privacy,” said John M. Simpson, Consumer Watchdog’s Privacy Project director. “I hope the online giants will follow the same policy in the United States.  If they don’t, we need legislation to require it.”

The Court of Justice of the European Union ruled that a person could ask Google to remove data that could “appear to be inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant or excessive … in the light of the time that had elapsed.” The judges added that even accurate data that had been lawfully published initially could “in the course of time become incompatible with the directive.”

The case was brought by a Spaniard who was concerned that Google’s search results were linking to articles about debts he owed long after the case was settled.

Consumer Watchdog said the ruling would help restore the concept of “privacy by obscurity” to the digital age, restoring a balance between the right to know and privacy.

“Before the digital age, if I did something young and foolish, when I was young and foolish, people forgot about it as I matured. While the details might exist somewhere in a paper archive, you needed considerable effort and motivation to dig them up,” said Simpson. “Contrast that to the digital era; all that information that once would have been generally forgotten over time is available with a few clicks of a mouse.  The EU’s decision restores the natural balance by recognizing the right to be forgotten.”

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Consumer Watchdog Asks NY Joint Commission On Public Ethics To Remove Google’s Chairman Eric Schmidt From State’s Smart Schools Commission For Conflict of Interest http://insidegoogle.com/2014/05/consumer-watchdog-asks-ny-joint-commission-on-public-ethics-to-remove-googles-chairman-eric-schmidt-from-states-smart-schools-commission-for-conflict-of-interest/ http://insidegoogle.com/2014/05/consumer-watchdog-asks-ny-joint-commission-on-public-ethics-to-remove-googles-chairman-eric-schmidt-from-states-smart-schools-commission-for-conflict-of-interest/#comments Mon, 12 May 2014 17:27:00 +0000 http://insidegoogle.com/?p=10205 SANTA MONICA, CA – Consumer Watchdog today filed a formal complaint asking the New York Joint Commission On Public Ethics to remove Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt from the state’s Smart Schools Commission because of conflicts of interest that violate the state’s Public Officials Law.

“Schmidt’s Commission participation raises the appearance of impropriety, compromises the integrity of the Commission, and provides Schmidt and Google the perfect vehicle for Google to pursue state funds, improve Google’s reputation and position in the education market, and to do what is best for Google, instead of what is best for New York,” the nonprofit, nonpartisan public interest group said in its formal complaint.

“This is not the fox guarding the chicken coop, but rather the fox building the coop,” said John M. Simpson, Consumer Watchdog’s Privacy Project director. “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 formal Complaint here: http://www.consumerwatchdog.org/resources/joint_commission_complaint.pdf

Consumer Watchdog’s complaint charged that Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s appointment of Schmidt to the three-person panel that will advise how to spend a $2 billion bond issue to bring technology to the state’s schools already violates three provisions of the Public Officials Law because it:

– Creates the impression that Schmidt can improperly influence decisions of the Commission.

– Raises suspicion among the public.

– Places Schmidt in an official position where he will not be able to exercise independent judgment in carrying out his duties.

“Additionally, if allowed to serve on the Commission, Schmidt will inevitably violate two more provisions of Section 74 because his role will make it impossible to (a) avoid using confidential information he acquires as a Commission member for personal benefit; and (b) refrain from taking official actions in which Google has at least some financial interest,” Consumer Watchdog’s complaint said.

Schmidt was appointed to the Commission on April 17 with Geoffrey Canada, President and CEO of Harlem Children’s Zone and Constance Evelyn, Superintendent of the Auburn School District in Cayuga County.  The bond act is scheduled to be on the ballot in November. When the Joint Commission finds a knowing violation of the Public Officials Law, it may order suspension or removal from office or a civil fine of not more than $10,000.

“This is not the case of an industry participant advising on general policy initiatives; instead, it involves Schmidt, the Executive Chairman of Google, advising on how to spend $2 billion on educational technology that Google offers in New York,” the complaint said.  “Schmidt and Google want to grow substantially Google’s education business in New York and elsewhere. Schmidt’s fiduciary duty to the private corporate interests of Google raises serious questions about his ability to act in the bests interests of New York instead of the best interests of Google.”

The complaint also noted that Google and Schmidt have an interest in limiting privacy protection for individuals and students, which is in conflict with New York’s student protection policy.

“Indeed, under Schmidt’s leadership Google has been repeatedly sanctioned or charged with privacy violations,” the complaint said.  It cited a $17 million multistate privacy settlement over Google’s unlawful online tracking of consumers and a $7 million multistate privacy settlement over Google’s unlawful collection of data from wireless networks nationwide as examples. In addition the complaint pointed to a record $22.5 million fine with the Federal Trade Commission.

The complaint noted that Schmidt’s serving on the Smart Schools Commission would not be the first time Schmidt and Google have ignored a clear conflict of interest to gain a business advantage.  “In August 2009, amid an investigation by the Federal Trade Commission’s Bureau of Competition, Schmidt was forced to resign his position on Apple’s Board of Directors due the conflict of interest inherent in serving on a direct competitor’s Board,” the Consumer Watchdog complaint said.

The complaint noted that Schmidt controls 5.5 percent of Google’s stock, worth more than $5 billion, was paid $19.3 million in 2013 and received a $100 million bonus in February. “Schmidt has more to gain from his interest in Google than from his participation on the Commission,” the complaint said.

Last month Consumer Watchdog sent a letter to Gov. Cuomo saying he should remove Schmidt from the Commission immediately given Google’s disregard for students’ privacy and the potential for self-dealing.

Read copy of the letter here: http://www.consumerwatchdog.org/resources/ltrcuomojcjs.pdf

Gary Reback, an attorney with Carr & Ferrel, in Menlo Park, CA., assisted Consumer Watchdog in preparing its formal complaint to the FTC.

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Consumer Watchdog Backs 6 Policy Recommendations In White House Big Data Report http://insidegoogle.com/2014/05/consumer-watchdog-backs-6-policy-recommendations-in-white-house-big-data-report/ http://insidegoogle.com/2014/05/consumer-watchdog-backs-6-policy-recommendations-in-white-house-big-data-report/#comments Thu, 01 May 2014 19:23:31 +0000 http://insidegoogle.com/?p=10171 SANTA MONICA, CA — Consumer Watchdog today backed six broad policy recommendations outlined in the White House report on Big Data and praised the report for identifying potential dangers of discrimination and threats to privacy in what the report called “a world where data collection will be increasingly ubiquitous, multidimensional, and permanent.”

“I expected the White House team to focus on the benefits of Big Data and gloss over the very real threats to privacy and liberty it poses,” said John M. Simpson, Consumer Watchdog’s Privacy Project director. “Instead they clearly spelled out the dangers.”

The Big Data working group’s six policy recommendations are broad suggestions, Consumer Watchdog noted, and the real test will come in how the specifics are implemented.

“More than two years ago the White House released its Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights with great fanfare, yet little has come of it.  The administration hasn’t even offered baseline privacy legislation,” said Simpson. “I hope the Big Data report means the Administration is finally serious about doing something.”

The report, Big Data: Seizing and Preserving Values said Big Data tools could:

– Alter the balance of power between government and citizen.

– Reveal intimate personal details

– Lead to discriminatory outcomes.

In comments to the working group as it was gathering information, Consumer Watchdog wrote:

“The guiding principles for governing “Big Data” are straightforward: People must be able to know what information is gathered about them, how long it is kept and for what the information will be used.  They should, in fact, have control over whether their data is even collected in the first place.  People should be able to correct errors in data files about them and request the deletion of data not required to complete a business transaction they initiated.  Large data sets used for research purposes should be aggregate data that has been de-identified.”

Read Consumer Watchdog’s letter to the Big Data Working Group here: http://www.consumerwatchdog.org/resources/whitehousebigdata033114.pdf

Here are the Big Data Working group’s six policy recommendations:

– Advance the Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights because consumers deserve clear, understandable, reasonable standards for how their personal information is used in the big data era.

–Pass National Data Breach Legislation that provides for a single national data breach standard, along the lines of the Administration’s 2011 Cybersecurity proposal.

– Extend Privacy Protections to non-U.S. Persons because privacy is a worldwide value that should be reflected in how the federal government handles personally identifiable information from non-U.S. citizens.

– Ensure Data Collected on Students in School is used for Educational Purposes to drive better learning outcomes while protecting students against their data being shared or used inappropriately.

– Expand Technical Expertise to Stop Discrimination because the federal government should build the technical expertise to be able to identify practices and outcomes facilitated by big data analytics that have a discriminatory impact on protected classes.

– Amend the Electronic Communications Privacy Act to ensure the standard of protection for online, digital content is consistent with that afforded in the physical world—including by removing archaic distinctions between email left unread or over a certain age.

Read the White House Big Data Report here: http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/privacy-final.pdf

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Google Stops Reading Students’ Gmail After Legal Questions Are Raised http://insidegoogle.com/2014/04/google-stops-reading-students-gmail-after-legal-questions-are-raised/ http://insidegoogle.com/2014/04/google-stops-reading-students-gmail-after-legal-questions-are-raised/#comments Wed, 30 Apr 2014 20:06:26 +0000 http://insidegoogle.com/?p=10167 Internet Giant’s Culture Shows Why Its Chairman Is Poor Choice As Government Advisor

SANTA MONICA, CA — Google said it will stop reading the Gmail accounts of 30 million students who use Google Apps For Education, spinning the announcement as “protecting students,” when in fact the change came only after questions were raised about the legality of the practice, Consumer Watchdog said today.

The flip flop makes clear Google’s ingrained culture of doing whatever it wants without asking permission and only backing down when confronted with possible violations of the law, the nonprofit nonpartisan public interest group said.

“Google executives are always pushing the limits and only back off when their hands are caught in the cookie jar,” said John M. Simpson, Consumer Watchdog’s Privacy Project director. “This is one reason why Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt is a terrible choice as a government advisor and why we’ve asked NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo to remove him from the Smart Schools Commission.”

While the Internet giant didn’t display ads to the students’ Gmail accounts, the data the company mined from their emails could be used to serve ads to them on other websites. The practice was revealed in a suit in federal court in San Jose. Last month Education Week magazine reported that such activity may violate the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, a law that protects educational records. Read the report here: http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2014/03/13/26google.h33.html?cmp=ENL-EU-NEWS2

Gov. Cuomo appointed Schmidt to the NY Smart Schools Commission earlier this month to advise on how to spend $2 billion to upgrade schools’ technology if voters approve a bond issue in November.  Schmidt is the only voice from the tech world on the panel.  The other two members are educators.

In letter sent to the governor Consumer Watchdog 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.

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

Read Google’s announcement that it will stop reading students’ Gmail here: http://googleenterprise.blogspot.co.uk/2014/04/protecting-students-with-…

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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 http://insidegoogle.com/2014/04/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/ http://insidegoogle.com/2014/04/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/#comments Mon, 28 Apr 2014 17:46:27 +0000 http://insidegoogle.com/?p=10137 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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Google Spent $3.82 Million Lobbying In First Quarter As Internet Giant Is Top Spender Among 15 Tech, Telecommunication Firms; Comcast Spends $3.09 Million On Influence http://insidegoogle.com/2014/04/google-spent-3-82-million-lobbying-in-first-quarter-as-internet-giant-is-top-spender-among-15-tech-telecommunication-firms-comcast-spends-3-09-million-on-influence/ http://insidegoogle.com/2014/04/google-spent-3-82-million-lobbying-in-first-quarter-as-internet-giant-is-top-spender-among-15-tech-telecommunication-firms-comcast-spends-3-09-million-on-influence/#comments Wed, 23 Apr 2014 20:21:27 +0000 http://insidegoogle.com/?p=10072 WASHINGTON, DC – Google spent $3.82 million lobbying federal lawmakers and regulators during the first quarter of 2014, making it the top spender among 15 top technology and telecommunications companies, according to an analysis of lobbying disclosure forms Consumer Watchdog said today.

According to lobbying disclosure forms filed this week, Comcast, which is seeking approval from the Federal Communications Commission and the Justice Department, for a $45.2 billion deal to buy Time

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Warner Cable, spent $3.09 million trying to buy influence during the first quarter of 2014.

Traditionally telecommunications giants like Verizon and AT&T have outspent Google, though the Internet giant has led the tech industry. However in the first quarter of 2014 Verizon spent $3.55 million and AT&T spent $3.67 million, falling behind Google, Consumer Watchdog found.

“These companies continue to spend whatever they think necessary to buy the laws and regulations they want,” said John M. Simpson, Consumer Watchdog’s Privacy Project Director. “These disclosure statements don’t include payments to trade associations or the sort of ‘soft’ lobbying that has become a Google trademark – funds to think tanks and academic research centers. When all that is factored in, the amounts are staggering. Policy making is no longer about what’s right; it’s all about the money.”

Google spent $3.82 million on lobbying in the first quarter of 2013, a 14 percent increase from $3.35 million in the comparable 2013 period, according to records filed with the Clerk of the House of Representative.

Google’s archrival Microsoft, which until recently had outspent Google, spent $2.08 million, a 17.8 percent decrease from $2.53 million.

Facebook, which has substantially increased in its Washington presence over the last two years, set another company record in its effort to buy influence in Washington. Spending increased 13.5 percent to $2.78 million in 2014 from $2.45 million in 2013.

For the first time in its history Apple’s spending for a quarter topped $1 million. It was $1.07 million in 2014, a 48.6 percent increase from $720,000 million in 2013.

Here is a link to the Clerk of the House’s Lobbying Disclosure database: http://disclosures.house.gov/ld/ldsearch.aspx

Here are the lobbying amounts for the six other tech firms:

– Amazon spent $830,000.00 in the first quarter of 2014, a 3.1 percent decrease from $856,831 in 2013.
– Cisco spent $590,000 in 2014, an18.1 percent decrease from $720,000l in 2014.
– IBM spent $1.26 million in 2014, a 7.3 percent decrease from $1.36 million in 2013
– Intel spent $1.23 million in 2014, a 10.8 percent increase from $1.11 million in 2013.
– Oracle spent $1.51 million, a 10.2 percent increase from $1.37 million in 2013.
– Yahoo spent $710,000 in 2014, a 1.4 percent decrease from $720,000 in 2013.

Here are lobbying expenditures for three telecommunications companies:
– AT&T spent $3.67 million, a 13.8 percent decrease from $4.26 million in 2013.
– Sprint spent $784,707, a 17.7 percent increase from $666,558 in 2014.
– Verizon spent $3.55 million, a 3.3 decrease percent from $3.67 million in 2014.

Here are lobbying expenditures for two cable companies:
– Comcast spent $3.09 million, a 31percent decrease from $4.48 million in 2013.
– Time Warner Cable spent $1.93 million, a 3.2 increase from $1.87 million in 2014.

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Visit Consumer Watchdog’s website at: www.ConsumerWatchdog.org

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http://insidegoogle.com/2014/04/google-spent-3-82-million-lobbying-in-first-quarter-as-internet-giant-is-top-spender-among-15-tech-telecommunication-firms-comcast-spends-3-09-million-on-influence/feed/ 0
Proposed European Antitrust Settlement Allows Google To Ignore Requests From Monitor, Consumer Watchdog Says http://insidegoogle.com/2014/03/proposed-european-antitrust-settlement-allows-google-to-ignore-requests-from-monitor-consumer-watchdog-says/ http://insidegoogle.com/2014/03/proposed-european-antitrust-settlement-allows-google-to-ignore-requests-from-monitor-consumer-watchdog-says/#comments Wed, 26 Mar 2014 17:04:24 +0000 http://insidegoogle.com/?p=9939 Group Asks Commission to Modify ‘Flawed’ Plan

SANTA MONICA, CA – A proposed settlement in Europe’s antitrust investigation of Google that establishes a monitor for five years to ensure that the Internet giant keeps its promises under the deal, does

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not actually obligate Google to do anything in response to a request from the “Monitoring Trustee,” Consumer Watchdog said today and called for the “deeply flawed” proposed settlement to be modified.

In a letter to Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, the U.S. public interest group’s Privacy Project Director John M. Simpson wrote:

“Much has been made of the idea that Google will be

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under the supervision of the monitor for five years to ensure the company fulfills the Commitments. However, to our amazement the Commitments do not actually obligate Google to do anything in response to a request from the Monitoring Trustee. Shockingly, the Commitments leave the decision about whether to comply entirely up to Google.”

Read Consumer Watchdog’s letter here: http://www.consumerwatchdog.org/resources/ltrbarroso032614.pdf

Consumer Watchdog’s letter quoted paragraph 67 of the Commitments that were made public by Google. The paragraph reads:

“VI.5 Duties and Obligations of Google
67. Google may comply with any specific request made by the Monitoring Trustee in its sole discretion. The Commission reserves the right to exercise its powers of investigation set out in Section V of Council Regulation (EC) No 1/2003 should Google decline any request made by the Monitoring Trustee.” – Commitments in Case Comp/-3/39.740, Jan. 31, 2014, Page 19.

“In other words Google may choose to ignore any request and the Commission may launch an investigation. But, that is exactly what the Commission has been doing for the past three years – investigating Google,” wrote Simpson. “This provision hardly seems a likely means to settle the antitrust case; rather it portends further stalling and foot-dragging on the part of the Internet giant.”

Read Google’s third proposed Commitments here: http://www.consumerwatchdog.org/resources/google_commitments_full.pdf

Annex 4 to the Commitments at first appears to require that Google give the Monitoring Trustee the information and cooperation necessary to do his job of ensuring that the Commitments are kept. However, as Simpson wrote in the letter, Annex 4 also does not actually put constraints on Google:

“Paragraph 9 eviscerates any apparent constraint or obligation on Google by referring to the earlier paragraph 67 of the Commitments, which allows Google – and Google alone – to decide what requests from the Monitoring Trustee need be honored.”

“9. Google’s duties and obligations pursuant to paragraphs 7 and 8 above are without prejudice to Google’s discretion to comply with any specific request made by the Monitoring Trustee in accordance with paragraph 67 of the Commitments.” – Annex 4, Page 2.

“These latest Commitments from Google purport to ensure that Google’s promises will be closely monitored for the next five years. In fact they do nothing of the sort,” the letter concluded. “A close reading reveals that they explicitly allow Google to decide how, when and, indeed, whether the Internet giant will cooperate with the Commission’s duly appointed Monitoring Trustee. This is simply unacceptable. It in effect allows Google to act has its own Monitoring Trustee. Consumer Watchdog calls on the Commission to modify this deeply flawed proposed settlement.”

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Visit Consumer Watchdog’s website at www.ConsumerWatchdog.org

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Magistrate Denies Google Motion Blocking Lawyers’ Access To Wi-Spy Data http://insidegoogle.com/2014/03/magistrate-denies-google-motion-blocking-lawyers-access-to-wi-spy-data/ http://insidegoogle.com/2014/03/magistrate-denies-google-motion-blocking-lawyers-access-to-wi-spy-data/#comments Tue, 18 Mar 2014 17:31:55 +0000 http://insidegoogle.com/?p=9935 SAN FRANCISCO, CA– A federal magistrate has denied a motion from Google in the Wi-Spy class action suit that plaintiffs said wrongfully would have blocked lawyers’ access to data Google’s Street View cars gathered from private Wi-Fi Networks.

Instead of responding to the lawyers’ discovery requests, “Google filed a motion which ironically seeks to prevent the Class Counsel appointed by this Court from analyzing the data that Google stole from the very individuals Class Counsel were appointed to represent,” said the plaintiffs’ brief filed late last week.

Monday afternoon Magistrate Judge Maria-Elena James denied Google’s motion.

The suit charges Google’s snooping on the Wi-Fi networks violates state and federal wiretap laws. Last year the Court of Appeals ruled the case could proceed. Read the Plaintiff’s brief filed on Friday here: http://www.consumerwatchdog.org/resources/plaintiffsresponse031414.pdf

“The tactics Google is using in an effort to prevent Plaintiffs from adequately determining the issue of standing is almost as disturbing as its intentional interception of the payload data itself, for it comes at the expense of the legitimate discovery process outlined by the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure,” the legal brief said.

“Once again Google is showing its hypocrisy by trying to keep information about its activities secret while asserting that its corporate mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible,” said John M. Simpson, Consumer Watchdog’s Privacy Project Director. “They are trying similar tactics in the Gmail case by seeking to redact a transcript of a hearing that was held in open court.”

Plaintiffs in the Gmail case also say Google violates wiretap laws when the Internet giant reads emails of people who use its Gmail service. The Gmail case is before Judge Lucy Koh in San Jose.

On Feb. 7 Judge Charles R. Breyer ruled that discovery on the issue of standing in the Wi-Spy case should begin. According to the Plaintiff’s filed March 14, here is what happened:

“Instead of responding to Plaintiffs’ requests, Google proposed that it turn over the intercepted data to one of five “neutral” third parties—of Google’s own choosing — who would then conduct limited searches for any communications of the named Plaintiffs based on a search protocol that must be agreed to in advance by Google. Google fails to cite any statute, rule, or precedent that supports this type of restrictive discovery. Google’s Motion is nothing more than a bald attempt to circumvent the Federal Rules for its own tactical advantage and to avoid producing all relevant discovery that will allow the parties and the Court fairly to resolve the standing issue. The motion should be denied as substantively wrong and procedurally premature.”

As the Plaintiffs’ brief notes, this is not the first time Google has resisted attempts to get to the bottom of the Wi-Spy scandal, in which the Internet giant’s Street View cars sucked up data – including emails, passwords, banking and health data from – from private Wi-Fi networks in 30 countries around the world. In 2012 the Federal Communications Commission fined Google $25,000 because it “deliberately impeded and delayed the Bureau’s investigation by failing to respond to requests for material information and to provide certifications and verifications of its responses…Google apparently willfully and repeatedly violated Commission orders to produce certain information and documents that the Commission required for its investigation.”

Spector Roseman Kordoff & Wills and Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll are Plaintiffs’ co-lead counsel in the suit. Consumer Watchdog is a co-counsel.

Read Google’s motion asking the court to approve the appointment of a “neutral” party here: http://www.consumerwatchdog.org/resources/googlemotionwispy020714.pdf

“Google’s tactic brings a dispute to the Court before it is ripe, with the goal of improperly granting Google the first and last

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word. Google’s strategy is designed to limit Plaintiffs’ opportunity to fully explain the propriety of its discovery requests, and to address any specific objections Google might have (but has so far declined to make),” the Plaintiffs’ brief said. “Google’s motion should be denied and it should, in accordance with the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, provide the data recorded by its Street View vehicles, data that indisputably contains the intercepted communications of the class members. To the extent Google has any responses and/or objections to Plaintiffs’ other requests, it should serve them pursuant to the Federal Rules, which would then be followed by a meet and confer conference between the parties. It is only then that any specific disagreements may be determined, and if necessary, brought to the Court’s attention.”

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