Posted September 3, 2010 12:33 am by with 4 comments

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Consumer Watchdog’s has something to say about Google’s disrespect for people’s privacy and they’re saying it at one of the busiest intersections in the world.

The group has purchased advertising space on a 540 sq ft Jumbotron in Times Square and they’re using it to blast Google’s CEO Eric Schmidt. The animated feature is called “Don’t be Evil?” and shows cartoon Schmidt spying on children from the innocent trappings of an ice cream truck.

In a press release, Jamie Court, president of Consumer Watchdog said;

“We’re satirizing Schmidt in the most highly trafficked public square in the nation to make the public aware of how out of touch Schmidt and Google are when it comes to our privacy rights.”

The ad asks people to text the word Evil to 69866 to show their support. I guess “666” wasn’t available.

“Don’t be evil” is Google’s unofficial corporate motto, but Consumer Watchdog says that Google isn’t doing a good job keeping the mounds of personal data they collect private.

Court says that Schmidt himself is clueless when it comes to privacy and quotes him as saying,

“If you have something that you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place.”

Then there’s this, from a recent Wall Street Journal interview;

“[Schmidt] predicts, apparently seriously, that every young person one day will be entitled automatically to change his or her name on reaching adulthood in order to disown youthful hijinks stored on their friends’ social media sites.

“I mean we really have to think about these things as a society,” he adds. “I’m not even talking about the really terrible stuff, terrorism and access to evil things.”

Really? When I started writing about this sign in Times Square I thought it was overkill. Now, I’ve now changed my mind.

John M. Simpson, director of the group’s Inside Google Project, suggests a “Do Not Track Me” list that would keep Google, or anyone from tracking your moves online.

According to a poll conducted on behalf of, 80% of people in the US supported such a list. They also like the idea of an “anonymous button” that allows individuals to stop anyone from tracking their online searches or purchases and a ban on collecting data on minors.

All good ideas, but implementation and enforcement would be very difficult. The trouble is, it’s not just Google who is collecting and / or spreading private data. Schmidt was right about one thing when he mentioned the “youthful hijinks stored on their friends’ social media sites,” and then there are the drunken Facebook updates and the obscenity-filled blog post aimed at your ex.

Maybe, before we go throwing stones at Google, we should be looking at how much information we ourselves put online for all to see.

Not passing by Times Square anytime soon? You can watch the ad on YouTube.

  • The issue raised by Schmidt is not one of tracking, or even about what people do on Google or its sites. It’s about social networking, and the lack of boundaries many people demonstrate when posting to those sites. A law allowing you to opt out of tracking won’t stop somebody from looking up your Facebook page. Google’s exclusion of social networks from its indexes would almost certainly result in their being sued and accused of antitrust violations, and there’s no reason to believe that its competitors would follow suit.

    • Cynthia

      Exactly. Even if you yourself try to steer clear of the Internet, your friends, family and co-workers are still including you and you may not even know it.

  • Most people have no idea how pervasive the invasions on our privacy are nor how dangerous. If they did they would not be allowing Twitter to track their every move voluntarily and the outcry over Facebook allowing others to “check you in” the default would be much louder.

    Few realize how many con artists or overly enthusiastic individuals there are and what they can do with this information – much less what could happen if authorities decided to round up everyone that met some criterion that today is harmless but tomorrow could be the next McCarthyism. (For those who think that could never happen where they live there is a reason for the famous saying “Those who do not study history are destined to repeat it.”)

    Once someone becomes obsessed with you – if they are really obsessive as some are – the only way to get them out of your life is to move and leave no trace of where you went. That is not all that easy considering all the ways we are being tracked already today much less what is coming. Unless you are willing to walk away from your name, everyone you know, and live completely off-the-grid STOP making it easy for some less than stable person to make your their object of “affection”.

    • Cynthia

      People are amazed by how much I can find out about a person with just their name, an email address or other random bit of information. It’s kind of the modern day version of a psychic act. Last week, a friend of mine said to me, oh, i saw you were reading the script to Harper’s Island. What did you think of it?
      I stopped dead thinking, wait, how did she know that? Did I put it on Twitter or Facebook? No. I logged into Scribd with my Facebook account and without realizing it, i connected my account to hers and she got an email saying that I was reading that script on the site. What?!? Not that it mattered in this case but it makes you wonder what else you’re putting out there without realizing it.