You are here

Why are mainline consumer groups AWOL on Google-DoubleClick privacy issues?

I continue to be surprised and saddened that the mainline consumer groups, Consumers Union and Consumer Federation of America remain completely AWOL on arguably one of the most important privacy issues threatening consumers --the pending Google-DoubleClick merger.

I can't seem to square the following facts.

  • These mainline consumer organizations have long and proud history of actively working the antitrust and merger review process for merger conditions to protect consumers interests.
  • Privacy groups with which these consumer groups routinely align: EPICUSPIRG, and the Center for Digital Democracy have filed a complaint with the FTC to block the Google-DoubleClick merger on privacy grounds:
    • The conclusion of their complaint reads:
      •  "Google’s proposed acquisition of DoubleClick will give one company access to more information about the Internet activities of consumers than any other company in the world. Moreover, Google will operate with virtually no legal obligation to ensure the privacy, security, and accuracy of the personal data that it collects. At this time, there is simply no consumer privacy issue more pressing for the Commission to consider than Google’s plan to combine the search histories and web site visit records of Internet users."
  • The Consumers Union does care about protecting consumers privacy in other matters:
    • In its HearUSNow.org call to action Consumers Union says this about Internet privacy:
      • "In the age of the Internet, it is not always easy to be left alone or to keep your business private.  What's at stake in the online world is ensuring that the information you want to keep private is kept that way." 
    • In their Financial Privacy Now call to action they care about consumers privacy:
      • "Tell your lawmaker that strong (privacy) protections matter to you!" parentheses added.
  • The Consumer Federation also has been involved in protecting consumers privacy and understand its importance in that they have petitioned Congress to protect taxpayers privacy:

    • "Consumers’ personal information has become a billion dollar business, with data brokers like Choicepoint and others collecting and selling consumers’ personal information to marketers. A rash of breaches of security at major corporations, including Choicepoint, Mastercard and dozens of others over the last year has affected hundreds of millions of Americans and put them at risk of identity theft. “If this proposed rule is adopted, you can bet data brokers like Choicepoint will be among the first in line to purchase consumers’ tax returns,” said McConnell. “And identity thieves will see this information as one-stop shopping to make it easier for them to commit fraud.”"

So if the mainline consumer groups that:

  • have cared about privacy issues in the recent past; 
  • routinely agree and cooperate with the privacy groups that strongly oppose the Google-DoubleClick merger; and
  • routinely work the antitrust and merger process for conditions; 

...are nowhere to be found on the issue of privacy on the Google-DoubleClick merger review... what's going on?

  • Could it be that Google is the lead supporter, benefactor, and political ally on net neutrality and that that political alliance is more important than consumers privacy? 
    • Would the mainline consumer groups' consumer constituencies agree with this political tradeoff -- the near certainty of much less personal privacy today for the possibility of net neutrality legislation in the future?
      • What would the reported 93% of consumers that have never heard of the phrase "net neutrality" think of this political tradeoff?

Bottomline: I am surprised that the mainline consumer groups are not standing up for what they say they believe in because of an apparent alliance of convenience with Google on a separate issue.

  • What other consumer issues are not being pushed by these organizations because it would displease Big corporate allies and potential benefactors?  

 

 

 

 

 

   

Q&A One Pager Debunking Net Neutrality Myths