Google's close relationship with the Obama administration has allowed the search giant inappropriate benefits such as access to a NASA airfield and lowered scrutiny on its private practices, according to a new report from Consumer Watchdog.
The advocacy group, which frequently targets Google for criticism, sent the report and a letter to House Oversight chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) on Monday, urging him to call Google CEO before the committee to testify on the relationship under oath.
“An investigation by the committee of Google’s relationship to the Administration is particularly timely now in light of the way the Federal Trade Commission closed its probe of the Wi-Spy incident, and the Department of Justice’s current review of the pending acquisition of ITA Software,” wrote Consumer Watchdog president Jamie Court and John Simpson, director of the group's Inside Google Project.
The group claims the relationship has also resulted in privileged access to NASA's Moffett Airfield near Google's headquarters in Mountain View, Calif. The reports says the airport "has been turned into a taxpayer-subsidized private airport for Google executives used for corporate junkets."
"This is just the latest in a long list of press stunts from an organization that admits to working closely with our competitors," said Google in an e-mailed response.
According to Consumer Watchdog, Google and NASA struck an agreement first disclosed in 2007 that would allow four Google jets to use the airfield for research purposes.
However, the group claims that very little research has occurred and the jets are mostly used to ferry Google executives like Schmidt to the Caribbean or to the Sundance Film Festival.
The letter also argues there hasn't been enough of a federal response to the "Wi-Spy" incident involving Google's Street View cars, which downloaded e-mails, passwords and other information from private, unsecured wireless networks. Google has claimed the incident was an accident and apologized; the FTC ended its inquiry into the matter but the FCC is believed to still be investigating.