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.
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.