Advocacy Calls for Congressional Hearings on Google Spying

Tue, Jul 20, 2010 at 12:53 pm

    The Washington Post’s Top Secret America investigation about  the vast scale and scope of U.S. government top-secret work, published this week, has revealed some troubling alliances with giant corporations to potentially spy on individual citizens.

    The Post identified 1,931 companies engaged in top-secret work for the government, including search giant Google.

    Citing revelations from the Post’s report, the advocacy group Consumer Watchdog, is petitioning Congress to look examine whether Google’s Wi-Fi spying may be tied to Google’s government contracts.

    The group sent a letter to Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman and Ranking Member Joe Barton calling for Congressional hearings. Consumer Watchdog director John M. Simpson wrote:

    Based on today’s Washington Post, it appears that Google holds classified U.S. government contracts to supply search and geospatial information to the U.S. government. In addition, White House records show that Google executives have been holding meetings with U.S. national security officials for undisclosed reasons. Finally, it also appears that Google’s widely criticized efforts to collect wireless network data on American citizens were not inadvertent, contrary to the company’s claims.

    As history has repeatedly shown, alliances between the U.S. intelligence community and giant corporations that collect data on American citizens can be a toxic combination where the U.S. Constitution is concerned.

    Google has not yet commented. The search giant has already been corresponding with the Energy and Commerce Committee, which is looking into the unfolding global backlash over Germany’s discovery that Google has been collecting personal data from unsecured WiFi networks in more than 30 nations. In a June 9 letter to the committee, Google’s director for public policy Pablo Chavez states that that Google “mistakenly included code in our software that collected samples of ‘payload data’ ” from private WiFi networks.

    But Simpson now says a review of a patent application from Google covering the gathering of WiFi data shows that the data collection program was a “very deliberate effort to assemble as much information as possible about U.S. residential and business WiFi networks.”

    “This raises serious questions about whether Google has engaged in a reckless effort to amass private data without giving any thought to the possible misuse of that information, and whether it can be trusted to safeguard the information it collects from the prying eyes of the U.S. government,” says Simpson.

    Simpson further points out that the White House visitor logs show that Alan Davidson, Google’s Director of Public Policy and Government Affairs, has had at least three meetings with officials of the National Security Council since the beginning of last year. One of the meetings, was with White House senior director for Russian affairs Mike McFaul, while another was with Middle East advisor Daniel Shapiro.

    It has also been widely reported that Google has been working in “partnership” with the National Security Agency, the very same government body that illegally intercepted the private communications of millions of Americans during the Bush administration, says Simpson.

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