Consumer Watchdog Calls on Google To Answer 4 Privacy Questions

    September 16, 2010
    Chris Crum

Consumer Watchdog, the group behind the much-publicized Eric Schmidt ice cream man video, has issued a press release blasting Google yet again. This is no surprise, considering recent news of an ex-Google engineer violating the personal data of of minors.

"The ability of a Google engineer to use his position to access private information about children in Google’s black box shows the satire’s warning about the Pandora’s box of our privacy problems is more real than anyone would want to believe," said Consumer Watchdog president Jamie Court. "In the back of Google’s ice cream truck is at least one engineer who tracked down children. There’s no clearer evidence of why we need national ‘Do Not Track Me’ legislation. Would Google oppose such a list even if it were just for children?"

The other day, the group invited Google to a conference to discuss privacy and business practices. They’re now calling on Google to answer the questions:

– How many other Googlers have invaded consumers’ privacy?

– How many have been disciplined or fired for doing so?

– How many times have hackers — government or private — gained entry to Google’s treasure drove of data?

– Would Google support a "Do Not Track Me" legislation?

Google did provide the following statement after news came out of the recent violation:

"We dismissed David Barksdale for breaking Google’s strict internal privacy policies. We carefully control the number of employees who have access to our systems, and we regularly upgrade our security controls–for example, we are significantly increasing the amount of time we spend auditing our logs to ensure those controls are effective. That said, a limited number of people will always need to access these systems if we are to operate them properly–which is why we take any breach so seriously." 

The company also told Jason Kincaid at TechCrunch that such a violation happened another time, but that it did not involve minors. 

"The point we’ve been making is that when so much personal information is accumulated by one company it is inevitably a target for abuse," said John M. Simpson, director of Consumer Watchdog’s Inside Google project. "Consumers have a right to control their data and whether it’s even gathered. They have a right to know if their privacy is breached."

"The problem isn’t one rogue or clueless employee," said Simpson. "The problem is a corporate culture driven by a computer engineer’s mindset that permeates Google to the core: More data is always better even if you don’t know what you’ll do with it when its first gathered. With the right algorithms we know best how to use your data for you. Don’t ask permission; you can always ask forgiveness."

The group cites the Google Buzz launch and the Street View vehicles gathering Wi-Fi info as examples of issues. 

The ice cream man video has been viewed over 330,000 times.


Chris Crum
Chris Crum has been a part of the WebProNews team and the iEntry Network of B2B Publications since 2003. Follow Chris on Twitter, on StumbleUpon, on Pinterest and/or on Google: +Chris Crum.