Consumer Watchdog Uses 540 Square Feet to Lampoon Google

insidegoogle_304Consumer Watchdog, the consumer group that has long a thorn in the side of Google over privacy issues, has taken its fight against the company to new heights.

On Thursday, the group began running a JumboTron ad in New York City’s Times Square that depicts Google CEO Eric Schmidt as a maniacal ice cream truck driver happily delivering free ice cream to children, while at the same time collecting information, spying on them and conducting full body scans to absorb private information through “Google Analytics.”

The 15-second plug, titled “Don’t Be Evil?,” is scheduled to air 36 times per day through October 15.

Consumer Watchdog cited two recent moves by the search engine giant as the impetus behind the ads: Google’s collection of personal data through its Street View cars and the company’s decision to publicize users’ Gmail contacts on its social networking application Buzz.

Google’s Schmidt frequently makes waves with his impassioned and outspoken defense of how his company handles private information, saying, “If you have something that you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place.” And, more recently, suggesting to the Wall Street Journal that one day young people will be ‘entitled’ to automatically change their names once they hit 18 in order to protect themselves from youthful postings on social media sites.

The Santa Monica, Calif.-based Consumer Watchdog says its goal with the videos and accompanying Web site, InsideGoogle.com, is to prod Congress and the Federal Trade Commission to create a ‘Do Not Track Me’ list that would operate similar to the ‘Do Not Call List’ currently in place to protect consumers from aggressive telemarketers.

John Simpson, the group’s director, says the public is on their side, citing a poll conducted on the group’s behalf that found 80% of Americans support a ‘Do Not Track Me List,’ while 86% favored options that would allow them to stop anyone from tracking their online searches and purchases.

Consumer Watchdog began its intense monitoring of Google in 2008 after receiving a $100,000 grant from The Rose Foundation as part of the Google Privacy Rights Project. The group has not made public any additional sources of funding since then.

Google largely dismissed this latest attack from its nemesis, responding to the campaign with only a brief statement.

“We like ice cream as much as anyone, but we like privacy even more,” the spokesman said, “That’s why we provide tools for users to control their privacy online, like Google Dashboard, Ads Preferences Manager, Chrome incognito mode and ‘off the record’ Gmail chat.” All of these tools can be accessed by users at www.google.com/privacy, he added.

Of note, and not without irony, Consumer Watchdog also made the video available on YouTube, which is owned, of course, by Google.