Group critical of Google's government relationship

January 24, 2011 7:17:37 PM PST
A consumer advocacy group is calling for a congressional investigation into what it says is Google's "cozy relationship" with the federal government, specifically, the Obama administration. At issue is Google's use of Moffett Field, owned and operated by NASA, which is just a few miles away from Google headquarters in Mountain View.

This is the report which Consumer Watchdog sent a report to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. The group says Google has what it calls "a secret relationship" with NASA and questionable deals with several other government agencies.

Consumer Watchdog says the most visible sign of Google's clout with Washington is Moffett Field. They allege that it has become Google's private airport, with company jets flying executives to junkets and vacations in the Caribbean and to the Cannes Film Festival.

"We have 40 Google executives with access, six jets and two helicopters and we have flight records that show Google executives like Eric Schmidt are using the jets to go to Cannes Film Festival where they're partying with Mick Jagger and Glenn Close," Consumer Watchdog President Jamie Court said.

According to federal records, Google is paying about $120,000 a month to house its aircraft. But Consumer Watchdog questions whether the company is also getting a deal on its rent as well as jet fuel.

"They may be paying rent but we don't know if its market rate rent or not, we do know they're getting government fuel, we don't know how that fuel compares with jet fuel at a private airport," Court said.

The group wants also wants congress to investigate Google contracts with several other government agencies where its services are used.

"Google has gotten no-bid contracts because its gained so much influence inside Washington," Court said.

Google responded with a statement saying, "This is just the latest in a long list of press stunts from an organization that admits to working closely with our competitors."

Consumer Watchdog has been a longtime critic of Google, which it says is consistently violating online privacy rights.

"We see Google's influence growing in the federal government in very troubling ways, opening up potentially our private data to the world," Court said.

Google has said previously that its jets carry instruments that provide atmospheric data to NASA. However, Consumer Watchdog says NASA documents reveal little research has been carried out on those planes.

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