Earlier this year the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) investigated Internet search engine giant Google for illegally collecting personal data such as passwords, emails and other online activities from unsecured Wi-Fi networks in homes and businesses across the United States and around the rest of the world. Google has claimed the data was accidentally picked up by their Street View cars while driving the world’s streets. Clearly, this is an invasion of the public’s privacy and yet the FTC has done basically nothing about it, not issuing even a slap on the wrist for Google. In late October 2010, David Vladeck, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, sent a two-page letter to Google attorney Albert Gidari saying that the FTC has ended its inquiry into the matter with little more than an assurance from Google that it will make “improvements to its internal processes” and “continue its dialogue with the FTC” (Vladeck). Why was nothing done to stop the practice and prevent it from happening again?
Less than a week before the FTC’s decision to drop the inquiry, President Obama attended a $30,000per person Democratic Party fundraiser at the Palo Alto, California home of Google executive Marissa Mayer (Carlson). Google’s former head of public policy, Andrew McLaughlin, joined the Obama administration as the deputy chief technology officer in mid-2009. Other Obama administration officials include: Eric Schmidt, Google’s chief executive, who serves as a member of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology; Katie Stanton,who joined the administration as Director of Citizen Participation after serving as a Google project manager; and the former head of Google.org’s global development, Sonal Shah, who is now head of the White House’s Office of Social Innovation. These facts suggest that the Obama administration may have a conflict of interest in its handling of Google’s civil rights violations.
Personal Communication, United States Federal Trade Communication, Office of the Director Bureau of Consumer Protection, David Vladeck, October 27, 2010. http://www.ftc.gov/os/closings/101027googleletter.pdf
“Google’s Marissa Mayer Hosting Obama At $30,000-A-Head Fundraiser Tonight,” Nicholas Carlson, San Francisco Chronicle, October 21, 2010. http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/g/a/2010/10/21/businessinsider-googles-marissa-mayer-to-host-president-obama-for-30000-a-head-fundraiser-2010-10.DTL
“Andrew McLaughlin ’94 Leaves Google to Join Obama Administration,” Harvard Law School website, June 18, 2009. http://www.law.harvard.edu/news/2009/06/18_mclaughlin.html
Student Researcher: James Dobbs, Affiliation ???
Faculty Advisor: Elliot Cohen, Ph.D., Indian River State College