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    National Journal: Privacy issues tarnish Google’s Washington image

    The National Journal reports on privacy problems facing Internet services giant Google:

    Reps. Edward Markey, D-Mass., and Joe Barton, R-Texas, cochairmen of the Bipartisan Privacy Caucus and longtime members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, don’t agree on much. But after Google was caught last month collecting Social Security information from children who took part in its annual doodling contest, the lawmakers set aside their differences. In a scathing joint statement, they called the action “unacceptable.”

    The rebuke was just the latest in a series from lawmakers in both parties, and it highlights a deeper problem for the online giant: Its star is falling fast in Washington. Long the darling of the technology community, Google had carefully cultivated an image of corporate responsibility with its “Don’t Be Evil” motto and its mission “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” But in recent years, the company has distanced itself not only from the motto but also the principles behind it, say experts who monitor its business practices.

    And members of Congress are noticing. In recent months, they’ve criticized Google for its proposed acquisition of an online travel-reservations company; a privacy breach involving the collection of unsecured wireless data; and its short-lived effort to circumvent tough new Internet regulations. […]

    Meanwhile, a bipartisan duo in the House last month urged the Federal Communications Commission to look into Google’s admission a year ago that its fleet of camera-equipped vehicles gathering images for Google Maps also collected private data from unencrypted wireless networks. And in August, Democratic Rep. Anna Eshoo, whose Silicon Valley district in California includes Google’s headquarters, criticized the company for an agreement with Verizon designed to sidestep tough network-neutrality rules barring anticompetitive online behavior, even though Google has long championed the cause.

    What’s more, Consumer Watchdog asked House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., to examine Google’s close ties with the Obama administration. It also wants a broader Justice Department investigation of Google along the lines of the years-long antitrust probe of Microsoft, which culminated in a 2002 settlement with the government.

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