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Mimes Send Google's Shareholders A Message

MOUNTAIN VIEW VOICE

A group of mimes in track suits weren't exactly silent as they called attention to Google's online tracking practices Thursday.

To dramatize the issue, the group pretended to track Google shareholders who stood in Shoreline Amphitheatre's parking lot on June 21, waiting to get on a shuttle to Google headquarters for the shareholder meeting.

"Who better to influence a company than the shareholders?" said one of the four mimes wearing white track suits, holding magnifying glasses and and wearing "Wi-spy" glasses.

"Tracking people in the real world is stalking. It's creepy," said John M. Simpson, mime and consumer advocate for the non-partisan nonprofit Consumer Watchdog. "When Google and other Internet companies follow your every move online, it's just as creepy, but most people don't realize it's happening. In fact, it's their business model."

As he spoke with shareholders Thursday, Simpson said "The problem is, Google doesn't just track you when you are using Google services." The issue is also with Google's ads, which track people all over the internet, he said.

Simpson said the group was demanding that Google honor a "simple, do not track list" that people could easily sign onto.

Google spokesperson Jim Prosser said the mime group was funded by Google competitor Microsoft.

"They're always following us," Prosser said. As for Google's tracking of Internet users, he said "We put a lot of effort into making sure users are aware of our practices."

"It's important to draw attention to the issue," Simpson said, saying he was a shareholder himself. "The shareholders seem interested in what's going on."

Shareholders had mixed reactions. It took a while for some to realize they were witnessing political theater.

"I'm going to be tracked no matter what, anyway," said a shareholder who called himself Brandon. "I think we're living in a transparent world." He called the do not track list a "band-aid solution. In the long term we're all going to be tracked."

Several Google employees were clearly irritated by the presence of the mimes and a photojournalist was asked to leave after being photographed by a Google employee.

Consumer Watchdog posted live video of the event on its [www.ustream.tv USTREAM channel].