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 even a slap on the wrists 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 their inquiry into the matter with little more than an assurance from Google that it will make “improvements to its internal processes” (Vladeck) and “continue its dialogue with the FTC” (Vladeck). Why was nothing done about it?
Less than a week before the FTC’s decision to drop the inquiry, President Obama attended a $30,000-a-person Democratic Party fundraiser at the Palo Alto, California home of Google executive Marissa Mayer (Carlson). Also, 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 joined the administration after serving as a Google project manager; she is now the Director of Citizen Participation. The former head of Google.org’s global development Sonal Shah, is now the 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 the company’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
Harvard Law School, “Andrew McLaughlin ’94 Leaves Google to Join Obama Administration” http://www.law.harvard.edu/news/2009/06/18_mclaughlin.html
Student Researcher: James Dobbs
Faculty Advisor: Elliot Cohen, Ph.D., Indian River State College