Watchdog wants probe of Google’s ‘unusually close’ ties to Obama

Watchdog wants probe of Google’s ‘unusually close’ ties to Obama

By Sara Jerome – 11/09/10 04:24 PM ET

As House Republicans plan an ambitious oversight agenda for the next session of Congress, a watchdog group is calling for a probe into a company that it says is far too cozy with the Obama administration: Google.

The National Legal and Policy Center (NLPC), a group that advocates for a smaller and more ethical government, wrote to leaders of the House Oversight Committee this month urging them to investigate a major privacy breach by Google. It wants to know if the company’s ties to the administration helped it dodge penalties after the incident.

The group also urges a look at Google’s ties to the administration more generally, pointing to what it calls “a growing body of evidence” that shows the administration’s “unusually close relationship with Google has resulted in favoritism towards the company on federal policy issues.”

“Like Halliburton in the previous administration, Google has an exceptionally close relationship with the current administration,” the letter says.

The NLPC letter encourages House Oversight Chairman Edolphus Towns (N.Y) and ranking member Rep. Darrell Issa (Calif.) to pick up where it believes federal regulators fell short in investigating Google’s Wi-Fi privacy breach.

After Google admitted last month that it collected and stored private user information, including passwords and entire e-mails, from Wi-Fi networks, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) closed an inquiry into the issue, citing promises from the company that it would improve its privacy practices.

But NLPC alleges that Google’s political clout might be the real reason the FTC dropped the probe.

“There is another deeply disturbing aspect to the FTC’s decision,” Kenneth Boehm, the NLPC chairman, writes in the letter to Capitol Hill. “Less than a week before Google’s announcement, President Obama went to the home of Google executive Marissa Mayer for a $30,000-per-person Democratic Party fundraiser.”

Boehm calls for the House to “conduct a fair and dispassionate investigation as to any linkage in these three events: the fundraiser, Google’s disclosure and the FTC’s action.”

He cites instances where the FTC may have been tougher on other companies, including Twitter, Sears and CVS, which were fined for privacy breaches in the last two years.

Boehm mounted six pages of evidence arguing that Google is too close to the Obama administration, including the fact that Andrew McLaughlin, a former Google employee, is now the U.S. deputy chief technology officer.

“The FTC’s decision to close its investigation into Google’s unauthorized gathering of private data through its Google Street View program is troubling enough. But looked at in the context of this Administration’s extraordinarily close relationship with Google, no fair-minded person could look at the record so far and not believe that further investigation is warranted,” the letter says.

Google has apologized for the privacy breach, saying it collected the private data by accident. That claim has prompted skepticism from privacy advocates and at least one lawmaker. Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas), ranking member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said last week that he thought Google’s actions were intentional. He said he would likely investigate Google’s Wi-Fi breach if he were to become chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, a position he is campaigning for.

Issa, who has promised a thorough investigative agenda when he ascends to the top of the House Oversight Committee, has previously worked to shed light on ties between Google and the administration.

GOOGLE FRANKENSTEIN: MACHINES TO CHOOSE YOUR NEWS

GOOGLE FRANKENSTEIN: MACHINES TO CHOOSE YOUR NEWS
Mon Apr 12 2010 08:15:34 ET

GOOGLE CEO and Obama political activist Eric Schmidt declared this weekend that his machines will help decide what news you receive!

News sites should use technology to PREDICT what a user wants to read by what they have already read, Schmidt told the AMERICAN SOCIETY OF NEWS EDITORS, where a few humans still remained in the audience.

“We’re all in this together.”

MORE

Schmidt said he doesn’t want ‘to be treated as a stranger’ when reading online.

He envisions a future where technology for news editing could help tailor advertisements for individual readers.

And he wants to be challenged through technology that ‘directs readers’ to a story with an ‘opposing’ view.

[An odd suggestion from the CEO of a company long accused of offering little to no conservative-leaning links on its news page, while aggressively promoting left-leaning hubs.]

Schmidt said GOOGLE is working on new ways to push adverts and content for consumers, based on what stories they’ve read.

What stories his machines have selected.

Developing…

Google Protecting Porn Profits? — Google’s refusal to turn over search records to the US Department of Justice (DOJ) might be more about protecting their own privacy than it is about protecting yours. That’s the view put forth by Forbes.Com writers Chris Kraeuter and Rachel Rosmarin in a short piece titled

Google Protecting Porn Profits? By Jim Hedger | Published  01/25/2006 Google’s refusal to turn over search records to the US Department of Justice (DOJ) might be more about protecting their own privacy than it is about protecting yours. That’s the view put forth by Forbes.Com writers Chris Kraeuter and Rachel Rosmarin in a short piece titled, ” Why Google Won’t Give In “.According to Nielsen NetRatings statistics cited in the Forbes article, about 25% of all web-surfers (38-million unique viewers) accessed pornographic content in December 2005. Google, which makes the vast majority of its revenues from the paid-ad click-throughs, stands to lose the most of all search engines if the Bush administration succeeds in restricting adult content and advertising.In a worst-case scenario, Google’s defiance of the DOJ subpoena becomes a political issue. The conservative media, known more for promoting political values than providing educational value, could tear Google several new ones, zeroing in on it as payback for defiance. Although Google provides all users a ” SafeSearch “option to filter adult related content from search results, the massive size and population of the online red-light district threatens a virtual feeding frenzy in certain congressional circles.Google has a lot to lose. Being spun into protectors of pornography by the under-achieving media and political elites does nothing good for Google’s “Don’t be Evil” image. Google could have a reputation management issue to handle. More importantly, a restriction on adult advertising presents a threat to Google’s bottom line.Earlier this week, I wrote that the short decline in Google’s share values last week was not connected to the dispute with the DOJ. I might have been mistaken. If there is a connection between this case and Google share values, (I wrote there was none yesterday), this is it.It should be noted, statistically speaking of course… Google almost certainly retains information that could show how many porn related requests came from virtually anywhere, including the computers of some (if not all) state and federal legislators. Protecting general information also protects that information. Don’t be Evil indeed.