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Consumer group calls for Congressional hearing on Google's 'wifi snooping'

Posted: June 11, 2010 2:41 p.m.
Updated: June 12, 2010 2:41 p.m.
 

SANTA MONICA, Calif. (PRNewswire-USNewswire) -- Consumer Watchdog Friday praised three Congressmen for releasing Google's purported explanation of its three-year WiSpy snooping and endorsed a call for a Congressional hearing about the incident. Consumer Watchdog also called for the Federal Communications Commission to investigate.

"Google Chairman Eric Schmidt and Co-Founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin need to testify under oath to Congress about what data Google gathered and what they did with it," said John M. Simpson, consumer advocate with the nonpartisan, nonprofit group.

Google's explanation came in a letter signed by Google lobbyist Pablo Chavez to U.S. Reps. Joe Barton, R-Texas, Edward Markey, D-Mass. and Henry A. Waxman, D-Calif. The congressmen seemed skeptical of Google's response and Barton said, "This matter warrants a hearing, at minimum."

"This is deeply troubling for a company that bases its business model on gathering consumer data," Barton said. "That failure is even more disturbing and ironic in view of the fact that Google is lobbying the government to regulate Internet service providers, but not Google."

Read the Congressmen's release here: http://republicans.energycommerce.house.gov/News/PRArticle.aspx?NewsID=7922.

"Transparency and trust are the key cornerstones that form the foundation of strong privacy protections for consumers. It's clear that in this case, Google fell short in both these areas," Markey said. "In its response to our inquiry, Google admitted mistakes it made in this matter and indicated that it has taken corrective action, including termination of its collection of WiFi data entirely by its Street View cars. We have raised concerns about this matter with the Federal Trade Commission on this important issue and will continue to actively and aggressively monitor developments in this area."

Barton said a hearing would be appropriate because Congress is contemplating privacy legislation. A discussion draft of the privacy bill has been circulated for comment by the House Subcommittee on Communications, Technology and the Internet.

In response to the draft, ten leading privacy and consumer organizations sent a letter to Subcommittee Chairman Rep. Rick Boucher and Ranking Member Cliff Stearns calling for much stronger provisions to protect consumer privacy both online and off.

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 consumerwatchdog.org. Visit its new Google Privacy and Accountability Project website at insidegoogle.com/.

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