FTC wrong to end Wi-Spy probe — public entitled to full account of abuses

Wed, Oct 27, 2010 at 11:54 am

    FTC wrong to end Wi-Spy probe — public entitled to full account of abuses

    SANTA MONICA, CA — The Federal Trade Commission’s two-page letter ending its probe of the Google Wi-Spy scandal is premature and wrong, Consumer Watchdog said today, and leaves the American public with no official full account of the Internet giant’s repeated invasions of consumer privacy.

    The FTC’s failure to act makes it even more important for Congress to hold hearings on Google’s Wi-Spying, in which the company’s Street View cars gathered communications from private Wi-Fi networks in 30 countries around the word.

    “Once again, Google, with its myriad of government connections, gets a free pass,” said John M. Simpson, director of the nonprofit, nonpartisan group’s Inside Google Project. “At a minimum the public deserved a full report about Google’s abuses from the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. Instead, the company announced a few steps that are little more than window dressing and the FTC caves in with a woefully inadequate two-page letter.”

    Consumer Watchdog asked the FTC to investigate Google’s Wi-Spying last May.

    Consumer Watchdog noted that privacy officials in the United Kingdom have re-opened an investigation of Google’s Wi-Spying and the company could face fines there. In the U.S. more than 35 state attorneys general are cooperating in a multi-state probe. A class action suit against Google has been consolidated in the Federal District For Northern California.

    “It appears likely that the only way the American public will get to the bottom of the extent of Google’s Wi-Spying activities is through civil litigation or the state attorneys general investigation,” said Simpson.

    Consumer Watchdog called on the states attorneys general to investigate in June.

    Google’s announced tweaks to its internal privacy procedures last week after the Canadian Privacy Commissioner Jennifer Stoddart said her investigation found that Google’s Wi-Spying broke the law.

    “The Canadians investigated and demonstrated that Google intercepted mails, URLs, passwords and other sensitive data. They documented the extent of Google’s abuse of Canada’s citizens,” said Simpson.  “I’d expect no less from our FTC; there is absolutely no excuse for shutting down their probe.”

    Consumer Watchdog has been working to protect consumers’ online privacy rights and educate them about the issues through its Inside Google Project. The goal has been to convince Google of the social and economic importance of giving consumers control over their online lives. By persuading Google, the Internet’s leading company, to adopt adequate guarantees, its policies could become the gold standard for privacy for the industry, potentially improving the performance of the entire online sector.

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    Consumer Watchdog, formerly the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights is a nonprofit, nonpartisan consumer advocacy organization with offices in Washington, DC and Santa Monica, CA.  Consumer Watchdog’s website is www.consumerwatchdog.org. Visit our new Google Privacy and Accountability Project website: http://insidegoogle.com

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