Consumer Watchdog has launched a rather unique effort in its bid
to highlight its concerns over Google’s privacy policies and to push
Congress to allow consumers to opt out of having their Web activities
tracked by online firms.
Consumer Watchdog has launched a 540-square-foot animated ad, which
is running twice an hour in New York’s Times Square, promoting the
groups cartoon video that mocks Google’s privacy practices by showing the firm’s CEO Eric Schmidt offering
free ice cream to children while he secretly collects information about
them. The public interest group has been critical of Google on privacy
and other issues and has launched a Web site focused on the Internet
giant called Inside Google.
In the cartoon video, Schmidt is seen driving around in a Google ice
cream truck and tells a group of children who run up to get the free ice
cream he is offering that, "I already know your favorite flavors. Hold
still while we collect some of your secrets. And if there is anything
you don’t want anyone to know, well you shouldn’t be doing it in the
first place," the cartoonish Schmidt says with a sinister laugh
refrencing a famous quote from the real Google CEO. "Remember kids you
can’t believe everything your parents say about privacy," as he goes on
to tell each child what their parents have been doing on the Web.
The video ends with a voice telling viewers to call Congress and urge
lawmakers to establish a "do not track" list. Consumer advocates have
promoted the idea of such a list, which would be similar to the FTC’s
Do-Not-Call Registry aimed at stopping unwanted telemarketing calls, to
allow Internet users to block firms from tracking their Web activities.
FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz has said the agency is considering proposing
such a list, but it would have to be mandated by Congress.
Schmidt has come under fire for comments he made to the Wall Street Journal earlier
this month when he suggested that children may want to change their
names when they grow up to escape the mistakes of their youth that will
have been recorded on Facebook and other social networking sites. He
also predicted that Google one day will know so much about its users
that they will want the firm "to tell them what they should be doing
Google has argued that it allows consumers to protect their privacy by giving them more control
over their information with such products as Google Dashboard, which
provides users with a control panel for the information they store with
their Google accounts, and its ad preferences manager that allows users
to edit the categories used to target Internet ads at them or to opt-out
of receiving such ads.