Consumer Watchdog Group Goes After Google

Thu, Sep 2, 2010 at 3:07 pm

    Consumer Watchdog, a consumer group, has long been critical of Google and some of the comments that Eric Schmidt, the company’s chief executive, has made about privacy online.

    On Thursday the group took its objections to a new level with a 540 foot square video advertisement in New York’s Times Square that shows Mr. Schmidt as an unctuous ice cream truck driver who knows everything about everyone and happily offers free ice cream in exchange to full body scans. (The video is available on YouTube, which is owned by Google.)

    Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the advertisements. In the past Mr. Schmidt has defended how the company views private information by saying “If you have something that you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place.”

    The group says its goal with the videos and an accompanying Web site,, is to push Congress and the Federal Trade Commission to create a Do Not Track Me list, similar to the Do Not Call list developed to prevent telemarketers from aggressively calling consumers.

    In a blog post promoting the videos, Jamie Court, president of Consumer Watchdog, made his case for the campaign. He wrote:

    Do you want Google or any other online company looking over your shoulder and tracking your every move online just so it can increase its profits? Consumers have a right to privacy. They should control how their information is gathered and what it is used for.

    The F. T.C.’s consumer affairs group did not respond to a request for comment on whether the agency was considering creating a Do Not Track Me list.

    In a telephone interview, John Simpson, the director of the group’s efforts involving Google, said his organization will continue to highlight the privacy issues until Congress or the F.T.C. gets involved. “I’ve been in meetings with privacy groups where it comes up consistently and I’ve talked with Washington staffers who are looking at the possibility of introducing legislation,” he said.

    Although Mr. Simpson said Google has been  receptive to some consumer changes, he doesn’t believe it’s in the company’s best interest to help consumers hide their personal identifiable information online.

    “I think the fundamental problem with Google, and by extension Schmidt, is that they are first and foremost computer scientists that work in their own world where more data is better,” he said, discussing Google’s stance on privacy. “They don’t think about the consequences this will have on consumers’ personal privacy.”

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