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Pondering why so many "watchdogs" are AWOL on Google

I got to wondering why so many supposed "public watchdogs" are AWOL on Google's threat to privacy, when I was reading the LA Times excellent editorial where they ponder the question: "Why is Youtube Hoarding Data?" 

Other than the New York Times last year taking Google to task for StreetView in "Watching your every move?" the editorial boards around the country have be uncharacteristicly silent on Google's unprecedented collection of more private information on more people than any time in history, while being ranked worst in the world on privacy by Privacy International.  

  • And given the stories these papers routinely run on data breaches, identity theft, stalking -- it is stunning that editorial boards seemingly cannot connect-the-dots and are collectively so sanguine about the threat Google's unprecedented trove of private information -- poses to Americans and their personal privacy.
  • One explanation for the large collective free-pass editorial boards have given Google on privacy is a potential conflict of interest. Newspaper publishers are understandably afraid of the destructive potential of Google News and don't want to anger Google into monetizing GoogleNews and siphoning off newspaper profits even faster.
    • These publishers are keenly aware that the transitional economics of moving journalism from paper to the Internet can cut a newspaper's captured value by as much as 90%.
    • Moreover, they are also increasingly aware that Google is the de facto online paymaster for the monetization of Internet content, so why anger their de facto current and future electronic boss?

While the traditional privacy watchdogs are clearly on "the Google case," -- kudos to EPIC, CDD, USPIRG, Privacy International, and others -- where are the other not-for-profits like, Common Cause, Public Knowledge, FreePress, and others? These groups have claimed recently to care deeply about protecting the privacy of Americans in their vehement opposition to the recent passage of the FISA law. Why are they totally AWOL on this potentially bigger threat to privacy? Could they be giving the privacy issue "lip service" like Google does? 

  • A large reason for their relative silence on privacy could be that they are strongly allied with Google's public policy agenda of net neutrality, copyleft, white spaces, open source, etc. -- and the enemy of your enemy is your friend -- right? 
  • There may also be another potential conflict of interest of here involving Google and not-for-profits that maybe making some not-for-profits reluctant to criticize Google. 
    • In April, Google admitted that it had granted over $270 million of free Adwords to over 4,000 not-for-profit grantees. 
    • It would be helpful to know, which not-for-profits got how much free largess from Google outside-of-public scrutiny, and whether the value provided creates any obligation, or the perception of a, or a real undisclosed, conflict of interest. 
      • One benefit of Google's unusual arrangement of running its not-for-profit arm,, inside a for-profit Google division is that Google has less legal obligation to disclose publicly what they are doing. 
      • Given that Google is supposedly the leading supporter of "openness" (Open Internet, OpenSocial, OpenHandset, etc.) it is hypocritical that Google is not more "open" about which organizations it supports and whether or not there is any quid pro quo involved to support Google's public policy positions.

Bottom line: Given the excellent clarion call by privacy watchdogs on the very real threat Google poses to Americans' privacy, where are the other so-called "public watchdogs" -- other not for profits and editorial boards?

  • Are they asleep at the switch?
  • Conflicted?
  • Or have they just not focused on the incongruity between their stated beliefs/roles and their actions to date concerning Google's threat to privacy?