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Consumer Watchdog Hopes To Lick Google

It's been a Google love fest these
past few weeks in the tech world. Whether it’s buzz about their new TV
service launching this fall in the U.S., Gmail's Priority Inbox rolling
out in Canada last week, or the company's new computer phone service
that lets you call mobiles and land lines for free, Google continues to
roll out noteworthy and useful innovations.

While I’ve never made a conscious effort to adopt all things Google,
over the years I've been enticed -- for one reason or another -- into
using their many tools and services. Moreover, I'm a proud user, turning
up my nose at other free e-mail platforms and search engine
competition. After all, what could be wrong with handing over all my
personal information to a company whose corporate motto is “Don't be
evil”? 

Well, if you're part of the Consumer
Watchdog team, there are few issues that are more important than
Google's online dominance. As part of their Inside Google site,
the non-profit group aims to keep “Google engineers accountable to
social mores, ethical customs and the rule of law.” They're so keen on
educating the public about Google aggressively gathering personal
information that they've produced a 90-second animated video that is
now, ironically, rising up the ranks on YouTube and playing on a jumbotron in New York City’s Times Square.

The animated creation portrays Google CEO
Eric Schmidt as a creepy old dude riding around in an ice cream truck
offering up free treats to little kids. The high-tech vehicle conducts
body scans of the children to capture their personal information and
“Schmidt” shares news with the little ones about their parents' web
surfing habits. According to Consumer Watchdog, they are hoping the
video will encourage people to create a “Do Not Track Me” list that will
prevent Internet companies from invading consumers' privacy (just like
the “Do Not Call” lists).

Although the advocacy group's goal is perhaps well-intentioned, the
video misses the point. It's uncomfortable to watch and it's so over the
top that it verges on being funny, in an odd web way. However, a day
after the spot appeared on a giant screen in Manhattan, Google wrote a
blog post stating that they're simplifying and updating their privacy
policies in order to make things more transparent
to end users. These revisions will take effect early next month in an
effort to keep diehard users like myself confident that Google is good.