We haven’t yet persuaded the House Energy and Commerce Committee to convene a hearing on Google’s Wi-Spy snooping and its dealings with intelligence agencies, but I’m off to Washington to testify to another committee.
The Information Policy, Census and National Archives Subcommittee of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee is looking into federal agency use of Web 2.0 technologies. That’s things like Google’s YouTube, Facebook and Twitter. The hearing will be at 2 p.m. EST Thursday.
There’s something of a back story to this. The hearing was set for June and then was abruptly canceled. Then there were reports that some folks were trying to block my testimony for the rescheduled hearing. I don’t know who or why, but as I’ve told both Democratic and Republican staffers, if invited I’ll gladly testify and answer any questions to the best of my ability.
You’ve undoubtedly seen how government sites now offer links to Facebook pages, Twitter feeds and Google YouTube video. Web 2.0 technologies increase citizen participation and government transparency and that’s all to the good.
The downside is that companies like Google and Facebook offering the services don’t respect consumers’ privacy. Wi-Spy makes Google’s lack of respect of private data clear.
When government Websites use Web 2.0 services, that may come across as an endorsement without adequately raising the very real privacy issues associated with them. Consumers are likely lulled into an unwarranted sense of security about the services.
I plan to tell the committee that while there are definite benefits to Web 2.0 technologies, it’s imperative that Congress pass robust privacy legislation to protect consumers who use them. It’s even more important when government is sending consumers to the sites.
And one of the reasons adequate privacy legislation faces a difficult road at best is because of the clout companies like Google wield in Washington. And, I’ll say there should be a hearing on Wi-Spy.