Congress, Internet Privacy and Google

Rep. Mary Bono Mack (R-CA), the chairwoman of the subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade, has opened hearings on the issue of privacy and the Internet. Not surprisingly the poster child for privacy violations — Google–came up often.

Google’s policy toward individual and personal privacy of its users can be summed up by comment of their CEO Eric Schmidt who said, “Google policy is to get right up to the creepy line and not cross it.” Unfortunately for consumers, it appears that Google cross that line – often.

Google’s history of privacy violations is long and often appears to be part company policy. Google has admitted it collected personal information and data for three years across the globe while its cars traveled through neighborhood snapping pictures for its Street View program. The cars also collected information from Wi-Fi’s from people’s homes.

Former House Commerce Committee Chairman Joe Barton initially called for hearings into Google’s Wi-Fi scandal. “[Google] made fairly significant verbal assurances that they would improve their behavior but apparently that’s all they did,” Barton said. “They really didn’t change their business model and it appears to me Google had adopted a model of saying one thing in Washington and doing another in their business practices. We might need to drop the ‘G’ from Google and just call them ‘Oogle’ because of what they appear to be doing,” he said.

If the Wi-Fi incident were the only instance where Google grabbed personal information from consumers, it might be excused but there appears to be a clear pattern of apathy towards personal privacy.

Google’s latest entre into the social networking space is an example of the bull in the China shop attitude the behemoth has toward its competitors and its customers.

Faced with a “friend deficit” versus Facebook, the company endorsed ‘Facebook Friend Exporter,” a tool to snatch unwitting Facebook friends and their personal information into the Google Empire. Names, addresses and even personal phone numbers are pulled into Google+.

When Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) questioned what the Federal Trade Commission was doing about this, the representative responded that she couldn’t comment on things that weren’t “public”.

So while it’s possible that the FTC is already looking into Google’s data snatching program specifically, its clear that Google has some answering to do for their privacy practices overall.

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