Consumer Watchdog Takes On Google Before The US Congress

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Google’s Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt, may hold more than a few unsavory views when it come to your privacy – but, he hardly lacks the courage to make them known. His self serving statements are made unafraid, unambiguous, upfront, and in your face.

Despite the fact that Schmidt’s views, and Google’s stated corporate philosophy, oppress the basic human right to be “left alone”, there’s no effort made to hide the megalomaniac drive to strip consumers of any semblance of privacy. The thinking pattern seems to be – you don’t like the new reality – then tough – what are you going to do about it?

Schmidt and Google aren’t calling your bluff – to this point, it appears that you aren’t prepared to do anything about it. It’s little wonder that Schmidt has fearlessly gone on the record with the following statements, justifying Google’s attempt to re-imagine the world (including raping the publics right to privacy), for commercial gain.

 “I actually think most people don’t want Google to answer their questions. They want Google to tell them what they should be doing next.”

“We know where you are. We know where you’ve been. We can more or less know what you’re thinking about.”

“Google policy is to get right up to the creepy line and not cross it.”

“If you have something that you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place.”

“We (Google) know roughly who you are, roughly what you care about, roughly who your friends are.”

Nice, huh?

Given the unprecedented ability Google has to collect endless streams of data, and correlate that data (much of that ability jealously guarded), I have no doubt, that Schmidt’s bizarre views (from where I sit), are well founded.

Google has set the bar when it comes to Web tracking, and while they effectively control this market, it would be a mistake to assume that they’re the only fly in the ointment. For instance, while reading my local newspaper, I have to agree to being tracked by eleven trackers (not all of then Google) – as illustrated in the following screen capture. Otherwise, selected parts of the page will not respond – reader comments (which I enjoy), for example.

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I admit, I’m in the minority in recognizing the truth, in that occasionally seen bumper sticker – “Google Is Not Your Friend”. But, I’m far from being alone.

Consumer Watchdog’s, Inside Google, which describes itself as “a nonpartisan nonprofit public interest group, ….. to educate the public and opinion leaders about Google’s dangerous dominance over the Internet, computing and our online lives”, will appear before the US Congress this week as part of a continuing effort to convince legislators to enact “Do Not Track” legislation, regulating how Google, and others, gather, store, and retrieve information about consumers.

Attempts to rein in Google are not without precedent – in a semi-serious attempt to curtail Google’s privacy encroachments – the privacy watchdogs of 10 countries (including the UK, Canada, France, Germany and Italy), censured the company (less than a year ago) for showing a “disappointing disregard” for safeguarding the private information of its users. Expressing “disappointment” in corrosive and creepy business practices is one thing, but getting off their fat asses to take corrective action would have been more appropriate.

Consumer Watchdog, as part of its continuing campaign to hold Google accountable, has just released the third short video in its though provoking “Don’t Be Evil” series, in which “Google Is Not Your Friend”, takes on new meaning.

To view the video just click on the graphic.

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While the fight to rein in Google might seem unwinnable, those of us who believe that the right to privacy is a “natural right”, and should be recognized as such, realize that pushing back against Google and other privacy predators, who continuously advance the “creep factor”, is an obligation that must be taken seriously.

If you believe that your online privacy is worth fighting for, then join with the “good guys” and become proactive in the campaign to manacle the Google octopus. Visit Consumer Watchdog and sign in, so that your views can have the impact they deserve to have.

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17 Comments

Filed under Google, Opinion, Point of View, Privacy

17 responses to “Consumer Watchdog Takes On Google Before The US Congress

  1. kenneth lunkins

    the govt is over stepping

    • Hi Kenneth,

      You’re entitled to hold that opinion, of course. But, I’m more than a little curious as to how you view Google’s (and others) collection of personal data, and what safeguards (if any), should be put in place to protect personal privacy.

      Bill

  2. Big Brother IS watching you.

    I finally relented and joined Google+ but I don’t like how Google track everything we do online. I should be able to look up medical information, tax stuff and so on without them collecting that data. It’s not their place to have that amount of power. I think it’s a little more sinister than just enabling them to target ads to a specific demographic.

    We really should worry about our privacy being invaded. People fought for generations to get us those rights. We appear to be giving them away freely.

    “They already know everything anyway” is a poor excuse for being ignorant and lazy.

    No one seems to have batted an eyelid when George W Bush started the ball rolling on the government’s plan to enact legislation which allows the use of troops against the civilian population of their own country.

    These pernicious erosions of personal liberties will come back to bite us in the ass if we don’t voice our concerns against entities like Google. Once something is gone you can’t get it back.

    • Hey Paul,

      This past week I was spinning through my Google+ account and lo and behold, I came across a series of pics from my Picassa account which was open to public viewing on Google+. I was stunned – I had NO idea. I’ve since made adjustments.

      You’re right about the cost previous generations paid to protect our rights. I often wonder if people in the 1940s and 50s, would allow this scope of privacy invasion if asked to approve it in those times, or what they would have done if presented with a fait accompli as we have been. I suspect there would have been hell to pay.

      Without a concerted effort from ordinary Internet users – which I don’t see happening – I think we’re screwed. The horse, as it were, is already out of the barn.

      Best,

      Bill

      • Yes unfortunately Bill, I have to agree with you. A lot of people have it too easy nowadays, and they’re not going to rock the boat and risk losing any of their luxuries. Can’t blame anyone really. Governments created the middle class worker and now they are well and truly dependent on them for their livelihoods.

        We’ve become soft. Not used to hardship. Maybe they were waiting for the older generations to die off. They did indeed fight for what we’re losing. They wouldn’t have stood for it.

        Nice article, Bill.

        • Hey Paul,

          Your comment encompasses much of my own philosophy. Particularly that – “We’ve become soft. Not used to hardship.”

          Progressively, people lack the courage, and the moral fiber, to stand up for their rights. The lack of a historical perspective on current events just astonishes me. The Internet generation has fallen into the trap of believing that what’s happening in the world, is all so very new.. How sad.

          Best,

          Bill

  3. Just done the Consumer Watchdog thingie Bill thanks. If only Google were not so important to me ! I take measures as best I can & I will not touch their calender

    Viewing reader comments is beyond annoying on some sites ~ On Ghostery I’ve had to allow Disqus & one or two others or I don’t get to read what the Truthers & Flat Earthers are believing today :)

    I’m looking for a list of cookies/bugs that need to be ‘allowed’ ~ unfortunately Ghostery doesn’t yet allow me control per site although I believe they’re working on it. I had given up on AdBlock plus because it screws up some important sites that use a lot of animation as part of the deal ~ but I reckon I’m going to have to start using AdBlock plus again & go through the pain of tweaking it per site

    As much as I love the internet ~ it’s a bloody mess in places. Worst offenders are restaurants with crazy flash menu pages, department stores & the art’n’design (!) community who have sacrificed the communication of information to the trendiness gods

    • Hi Michael,

      The price of admission to active interaction with the Internet, In my case, are the the keys my inner life. Handing over those keys allows Google, et al – to know exactly the political articles I read, (just one example), not only in my Newspaper but, Journals, Periodicals, etc. So, when Schmidt makes the point – “We know where you are. We know where you’ve been. We can more or less know what you’re THINKING about.” – I can’t help but think of the East German Stasi, and the methods they employed to separate dissenters from the clones, Given the fact that I am a dissenter – which is hardly news – I remain unconvinced that Google is not a Stasi like organization, in ostensibly helpful garb. Trusting any organization to operate in any way that does not serve their own interest, is a fools game.

      The majority of people somehow have forgotten that the “worm turns”. When it does, as it will – since it’s already in the process from a political standpoint – the shit will hit the fan. “If I’d only known” will become a common refrain.

      Thank you for the comment – particularly your views on Flash sites. I couldn’t agree more.

      Best,

      Bill

  4. Google is a major cog in the money making machine known as the Internet. Google is all about selling ads. They care nothing about individuals or their information. If there were no ads, there would be no need to track people’s activities and thus, no privacy concerns. The “simple fix” is to ban all ads from the Internet, but we all know that ads are here to stay and that no one can do anything about it – period. If Google had a change of heart one day and stopped selling ads, someone else would just step over its dead body and take its place. Is Google the enemy or just an accomplice that many people love to hate? I say it’s both. It’s a facilitator as well as an instigator.

    Cheers

    • Mister Reiner,

      Well, talk about a voice from the past!. Good to hear from you – I trust all is well.

      From a technical perspective, of course you’re right – it’s all about the dollars. But the privacy issue isn’t about the business model, directly – it’s about the lack of privacy; the lack of control which individual have over the collection of information, that in previous times, was considered sacrosanct.

      Simply because the current business model works wonderfully well for the likes of Google, doesn’t mean that that it meets the needs of “the product” – and we are, make no mistake about it – “the product”. A product who’s personal information is collected, correlated, processed, stored indefinitely (who knows where), and sold to the highest bidder. Is there something wrong with that – you’re damn right there is. And, that it is wrong (the way in which Google operates) – has been recognized by government after government. worldwide. Particularly in the Eurozone, where governments aren’t driven by massive dis-functionality. Countries, in which governments recognize that the interest of people, necessarily override the profit objectives of morally deficient organizations like Google.

      Any future restrictions that are placed on Google’s ability to continue to operate in a shadow world (in my view), will originate in the EU; certainly not in a politically bankrupt US.

      Bill

  5. Altered_Aaron

    Articles like these remind me why I continue using my favorite operating system: Windows ME. They can pry this computer from my cold, dead hands

    With it’s market share of no more than 0.001 percent, it’s kinda like flying under the radar. I think. And I hope.

    All I know is that I don’t like the direction where computers are headed. Into the “cloud” and all that. The pictures on your hard drive won’t even be yours anymore, pretty soon you’ll have to agree to their terms to be able to use your own pictures. They will own the internet, and since everybody’s computer data will be stored on “the cloud,” they will own YOU’RE DATA. Probably send it to the CIA too, while they’re at it.

    The internet was better back in the 90′s, back when people had homepages, not stupid facebook pages. And everything was more dial-up friendly. I just want to read stuff (like blogs, news, and fanfiction), I don’t care about flash videos, streaming movies, and junk.

    So, I’m going to keep using K-Meleon with javascript disabled, on dial-up, with my Sygate Firewall, and my F-Prot and ClamWin Antivirus programs.

    There are other search engines, by the way. And after reading those quotes above from the Google drone, I’m really tempted to use them.

    For instance, “Starpage.com” doesn’t record your IP address, and it bills itself as “the most private serach engine.” If you’re interested in privacy, give it a try.

    • Hey Altered_Aaron,

      I hear ya! Your comment is definitely retro focused. :) BTW, you have company vis-a-vie running an obscure OS.

      Thanks for the tip on Startpage.com. Just took a look, and it’s definitely worth an article.

      Bill

  6. Altered_Aaron

    oops, I meant to say “startpage.com”

    hehe

  7. John Bent

    Hi Bill,

    I use Ghostery, which I have recently set to block everything on all sites as I don’t miss what it blocks. I also use Watchers Analytics Panel, which allows me to toggle between blocking and not blocking at will. It also allows blocking on specific sites if required.

    Also in my armoury is Track me not and I have a whole range of add-ons in my browser to wipe cookies and prevent the installation of super cookies. Do I think my privacy is watertight? Nah. I will continue to add any other privacy aids you come up with, unless they restrict my browsing experience to an unacceptable degree.

    As for Google, “too big for their own boots” doesn’t begin to cover it. Sadly no-one will be able to put them back in the box. We need to add them to death and taxes as being inevitable. Ever noticed it’s only unpleasant things that fit into that category?

    Kind regards
    John Bent

    • Hi John,

      It’s quite amazing that we need to take such concerted action to safeguard our privacy. A thinking person would see this as intolerable. But hey, ““If you have something that you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place.” – Schmidt

      Best,

      Bill

      • John Bent

        Hi Bill,

        “If you have something that you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place.” – Schmidt

        As far as I am concerned you can take the c, m and d out of the author’s name; another piece of gratuitous arrogance.

        Kind regards
        John