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It's high time that Google's CEO Eric Schmidt was called to Congress to testify about Google's big offense -- when  its Google Maps "street view" cars collected wireless data from tens of millions of homes in 30 nations. The "Wi Spy" scandal was the largest wire-tapping scandal in world history, yet Congress has not held a single hearing.  With the help of animators, that hearing has been digitally mastered using Schmidt's actual words.

Google got honorable mention in the State of the Union as an innovator, but the flip side of corporate "innovation" is sometimes an offense to society's core values, like privacy, and then the government has to step in to demand answers.

It's high time that Google's CEO Eric Schmidt was called to Congress to testify about Google's big offense -- when  its Google Maps "street view" cars collected wireless data from tens of millions of homes in 30 nations. The "Wi Spy" scandal was the largest wire-tapping scandal in world history, yet Congress has not held a single hearing.  With the help of animators, that hearing has been digitally mastered using Schmidt's actual words.

Consumer Watchdog's new animated satire, "Mr. Schmidt Goes to Washington,"debuted today on the streets of Washington, DC, to make the case for why Congress should call Google CEO Eric Schmidt to testify under oath about the Wi-Spy scandal and other online privacy issues.

The avatar-style animation is being displayed on a mobile digital advertising truck equipped with stereo sound that will travel for one week across Capitol Hill, downtown, and busy District thoroughfares. The animation shows Google's CEO testifying before Congress using real-life, creepy quotes from Schmidt about privacy to make the case for why Congress should question him.

Schmidit is expected to be in Davos this week where Google is throwing a lavish party for hundreds of the world's economic elite. Innovation and Obama's bow to the company, with which his administration and campaign treasurer have cozy ties, will no doubt be the toast of Davos.  The bar rooms in Washington will get their treat as well with "Mr. Schmidt," the sequel to a wildly popular animation, "Don't Be Evil," that had about 400,000 views online after making its debut on a Times Square Superscreen.

In the new animation, CEO Schmidt dons "Wi-Spy" glasses that allow him to see the personal details of the Senator questioning him.  The animation was donated by artists and consultants concerned about Google's practices who want to remain anonymous out of concern about retribution against them.

Google spent $5.2 million lobbying last year - up from $4.03 million in 2009 -- to convince Congress that nothing is wrong. The company has repeatedly refused to answer questions about its activities - making no response to Consumer Watchdog reports, rejecting multiple invitations appear at our recent privacy conference with officials representing the Federal Trade Commission and Commerce Department, and even failing to comply with a subpoena by the state attorneys general. Clearly Google's executives won't answer tough questions until they come from Congress.

What does the public deserve to know?  Questions like: Why did Google gather data from the Wi-Fi networks?  What plans were there to use the data? Who authorized the project and supervised it?  Who at Google has used, analyzed or otherwise accessed payload data and for what purpose?  If the data was collected "by accident," why did Google seek a patent on the process that was used to gather the data?

If you agree Congress should act, take a moment and send a free message to Congress at this page. It's one thing to innovate by being creepy with tens of millions of people's private information. It's another thing when Congress refuses to find out the truth.

And, yes, "Mr. Schmidt" was posted on YouTube just to see what owner Google might do with it.

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Posted by Jamie Court, author of The Progressive's Guide to Raising Hell and President of Consumer Watchdog, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to providing an effective voice for taxpayers and consumers in an era when special interests dominate public discourse, government and politics. Visit us on Facebook and Twitter.

Originally posted to Consumer Watchdog on Wed Jan 26, 2011 at 10:16 AM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  This is idiotic (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    gooderservice, T100R

    What use would Google have for network traffic collected only from individuals too ignorant to know how to not broadcast all their traffic to absolutely anyone who wants to listen, only for a highly random few seconds as the car drove by?

    It doesn't make the slightest bit of sense to build a conspiracy theory around it. If you're worried about it, secure your damn router. If you're not worried about it, secure your damn router anyway. There's vastly worse things that could be happening with an unsecured router than Google sniffing a random few seconds of traffic. For example, your neighbor could steal your bandwidth and use it to view kiddie-porn, which the police would trace to you - that kind of accusation can be devastating even if you eventually prove your innocence. Or, if you're too ignorant to secure your wireless, you're probably also too ignorant to identify an SSL man-in-the-middle attack, and may find your internet banking password stolen by someone more malicious than Google driving down the street with a laptop.

    The patent application has nothing to do with recording payload data. It's quite clearly for a mapping function, one that is in fact in live use on Android-based phones: if a GPS signal cannot be found, location can be approximated by scanning what Wi-Fi networks are available, and comparing against the mapping database.

    •  "I lost my Linksys connection" (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      sullivanst

      (Sorry, no time to translate, but the caller had been illegally using a neighbor's wifi Internet connection for over a year and a half, and one day, she couldn't use it anymore.  So she bought a Linksys wireless extender to attempt to get her illegal connection back.  It didn't work.  

      Leo Laporte, a tech guru (and humanitarian) tried explaining to her that what she was doing was wrong.  She kept pushing the issue of her problem that she couldn't get Internet access, and Leo kept telling her she had to pay for it.)

      To get all of Leo Laporte's podcasts, netcasts, or to watch them live   http://twit.tv/

      Hensarling: "Let's repeal it today, replace it tomorrow." Wimpy: "I'll gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today"

      by gooderservice on Wed Jan 26, 2011 at 11:13:19 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Yeah, this guy has a real hard on for Google. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      lineatus, sullivanst

      Admittedly, slurping live data as they drove by was stupid -- though not the stupidest thing they've done by a long shot -- but the idea that they could do something nefarious with these little 15 second samples of traffic they picked up as they drove by is ludicrous.

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