Protesters focus on privacy outside Google meeting

June 21, 2012 7:39:54 PM PDT
Protests outside Google's shareholders meeting in Mountain View took on a circus-like look Thursday afternoon. Mimes dressed in track suits followed shareholders into the annual meeting.

As shareholders lined up to register for the meeting Consumer Watchdog's Google track team pretended to spy on them. The mime's provided the humor while the director of Consumer Watchdog's privacy project handled the message.

"The business model is in fact to track people everywhere," John Simpson said.

Simpson told the shareholders they should be concerned about Google's tracking practices and reminded them that two years ago Google's Street View cars were surreptitiously gathering information from private Wi-Fi networks, including passwords, health and financial data and emails from people who had no idea their Wi-Fi networks were being tapped.

"Well, it's important to say the FCC found that we didn't violate any laws and they confirmed that again what we said that we didn't actually look at any of that data," Google spokesperson Jim Prosser said.

What the FCC did do was fine Google $25,000 for obstructing its investigation.

"I don't think people understand the extent to which their online activities are spied upon," Simpson said.

Consumer Watchdog is pushing Google to provide a "do not track" option on its websites. But the shareholders listening to the Consumer Watchdog message seemed less than interested.

"I think Google is already out in the open and one of the leaders when it comes to being transparent," shareholder John Peter said,

Peter, an economics and media studies student at UC Berkeley, isn't concerned about Google's data collection.

Neither is Santa Clara resident Joanne Landau.

"You know I go to the grocery store and enter my phone number and they know what I'm buying," she said.

What the shareholders said they were interested in had much more to do with Google's robot cars and the company's plans to issue a new class of stock.

Google stock is up nearly 20 percent from the close on this day one year ago.


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