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 national poll commissioned by Consumer Watchdog.
While Google received an overall 74% favorable rating among tech companies tested, 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.
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. The Internet giant and the government need to come clean about how Google is cooperating with the National Security Agency.
Our poll 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 Agency, the NSA” (69% favor, 19% oppose).
We have repeatedly called for Congressional hearings focused on Google’s Wi-Spy activities.
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. These privacy protections are ripe for ballot initiatives in states like California if Congress and statehouses won’t act.
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.