Five people calling themselves the "Google Track Team" clad in white track suits splashed with the phrase "don't be evil" followed Hill staffers around the hallways of a Senate office building where Google CEO Eric Schmidt was testifying on his company's practices on Wednesday.
Sponsored by the group Consumer Watchdog, the "mimes" were surprisingly talkative. One of the "mimes" even introduced himself and tried to shake Schmidt's hand after the hearing before an aide stepped in between the two.
"We wanted to make sure that the issue of Google's reach on the Internet and its ability to gather data about consumers even if they never use a Google product, got talked about," Carmen Balber, director of Consumer Watchdog, told TPM.
"We think that's a very important piece of their power over the Internet, their ability to gather info about consumers no matter where they are," she said.
"We want to dramatize Google's online tracking and focus attention on the issue," Consumer Watchdog's John M. Simpson explained in an e-mail to the National Journal. "If you track people in the real world, it's stalking, if you do it online it's just business. Besides, mimes can be creepy and tracking is creepy."
So does Balber use GMail herself?
"No," she said, as she leaned into whisper. "But I do use Google."