Group Plans To Ask Google Executives What They Knew About Wi-Spy

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Consumer Watchdog today sent its “Google Track Team” comprised of mimes dressed in white track suits to follow shareholders as they gathered for the company’s annual meeting in a bid to focus attention on the Internet giant’s online tracking activity.

A shareholder representing the public interest group will ask Google CEO Larry Page and Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt during the shareholders meeting what they knew about Google’s Wi-Spy privacy violations and when they knew it.

The planned action before the meeting was meant to focus attention on Google’s online tracking activity and dramatize the need for the implementation of a Do Not Track mechanism so consumers can tell websites that don’t want their online activity tracked as they surf the web.

The mimes dressed as the “Google Track Team” in white tracksuits with the “Don’t Be Evil” motto and wore Google “Wi-Spy” glasses. They planned to track (follow) Google employees and shareholders as they checked in for the meeting and waited to be transferred by shuttle bus to Google headquarters.

“Tracking people in the real world is stalking. It’s creepy,” said John M. Simpson, Consumer Watchdog Privacy Project director. “When Google and other Internet companies follow your every move online, it’s just as creepy, but most people don’t realize it’s happening. In fact, it’s Google’s business model. That’s why consumers need a way to stop being tracked when they surf the web.”

Consumer Watchdog will live-stream video of the mimes in action here.

Google will videocast the annual meeting here.

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Consumer Watchdog called on Google to fulfill its pledge to implement Do Not Track on its Chrome browser and to honor the Do Not Track message on its websites. The group said Do No Track means do not collect data, not simply do not target ads. It called on Google to honor the do not collect approach.

The Wi-Spy scandal erupted two years ago when it was revealed that Google’s Street View cars were sucking “payload data” – emails, passwords, health information, banking information and other data – from millions of private Wi-Fi networks in 30 countries around the world. Google first said it didn’t gather payload data, then it said it had done so by mistake and then it said it was the work of rogue engineer. Recently a Federal Communications Commission investigation revealed that design documents for the Street View project discussed plans for “war driving” and gathering data from Wi-Fi networks. The FCC fined Google $25,000 for obstructing it investigation.

“It’s imperative that we know what role Page and Schmidt played in this massive invasion of privacy. What did they know and when they know it?” said Simpson. “I plan to ask them.”