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Consumer watchdog poll finds concern about Google's wi-spy snooping

Posted: July 27, 2010 1:55 p.m.
Updated: July 27, 2010 2:15 p.m.
 

SANTA MONICA, Calif., July 27 -- A significant majority of Americans are troubled by recent revelations that Google's Street View cars gathered communications from home WiFi networks, and they want stronger legal protection to preserve their online privacy, according to a national opinion poll released today by Consumer Watchdog.

While Google received an overall 74% favorable rating, nearly two-thirds of those polled (65%) say the Wi-Spy scandal is one of the things that "worries them most" or a "great deal" with another 20% saying it "raises some concern" when considering Internet issues.

The poll, conducted for the nonpartisan, nonprofit public interest group by Grove Insight, Ltd., found a solid majority (55%) is also bothered ("one of the most" or "great deal") by Google's cooperation with the National Security Agency without saying what information is being shared. Even more voters call for Congressional hearings on "Google's gathering data from home WiFi networks and its sharing of information with U.S. spy agencies like the National Security Administration, the NSA" (69% favor, 19% oppose).

Consumer Watchdog has repeatedly called for Congressional hearings focused on Google's Wi-Spy activities. The poll was released the same day the Senate Commerce Committee was holding general hearings about protecting consumer online privacy.

"This poll shows that the Wi-Spy scandal is a political minefield for both Google and Congress, and it has the power to scar both," said John M. Simpson, consumer advocate with the group. "The company and the government need to come clean about how Google is cooperating with NSA."

The public also shows deep support for a broad range of strong Internet privacy protections. In fact, when asked whether it is "important" to have "more laws that protect the privacy of your personal information" nine in 10 (90%) support this notion. Of these, two thirds (67%) say it is "very important" and there are no real differences based on age -- meaning voters under 50, including those ages 18-29, are just as likely to say more privacy laws are needed as those over the age of 70.

When asked specifically what laws they would like, a stronger ability to block tracking of personal information is in strong demand, the poll found. In fact, every proposal that included the word "tracking" receives support levels that were 70% or greater.

A "make me anonymous button" (86% favor, 9% oppose) tops the list, followed by preventing online companies from tracking personal information or web searches without your explicit, written approval (84% favor, 11% oppose).

"It's time for Congress to act on these issues and for Google and the government to deliver real privacy protections like a make me anonymous button or a do not track list," said Simpson. "These privacy protections are ripe for ballot initiatives in states like California if Congress and statehouses won't act."

Read Grove Ltd.'s poll analysis here.

Read the poll's topline results here.

There was also a warning in the results for members of Congress who fail to act. Voters appear to be in a punishing mood for those who refuse to hold hearings, especially if donations from Google are in their campaign coffers. Nearly six in 10 said they would be less likely to vote for their member of Congress if they took campaign contributions from Google and then refused to hold hearings on the Wi-Spy scandal.

Rep. Rick Boucher, (D-VA) chairman of the Subcommittee on Communications, Technology and the Internet, has been dismissive of the need for Wi-Spy hearings. He has received $18,000 from Google's political action committee, Google Inc. NetPAC, since it was founded in 2006.

The poll surveyed 1000 likely 2010 general election voters. A base sample of 800 voters was conducted nationally and an oversample of 200 voters was conducted in California. This survey was conducted over the Internet with respondents pulled from a panel of previously identified voters. Interviews were conducted July 22 to 25, 2010 and the margin of error is +/- 3.1% at the 95% percent level of confidence.

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 our new Google Privacy and Accountability Project website: insidegoogle.com.

 

 

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