Google’s Newest Critic: ‘Consumer Watchdog’

19 Nov Google’s Newest Critic: ‘Consumer Watchdog’

National Journal, DC, November 18, 2008
Consumer Watchdog, a group that has begun to press Google to enhance the privacy and security of its applications (see earlier blog post), is a newcomer to the lets-bash-the-Internet-behemoth brigade so the obvious question is: who bankrolls the Santa Monica, Calif.-based organization? The group’s work in the privacy arena, according to its president Jamie Court, is 100 percent funded by the Rose Foundation. The foundation, which believes that “environmental stewardship, community regeneration, consumer protection, robust civic participation and a healthy economy are all inextricably linked,” laid down $100,000 this year to fund a so-called “Google Privacy Rights Project.” The grant’s description reads: “Few search engine users are aware of the extent to which Google and other leading search engines collect and categorize customers’ personal information, and the extent to which this information may be shared with marketing partners. This vast collection of customer specific data is also an attractive target for hackers, identity thieves, and governmental surveillance. The project will develop a comprehensive set of model privacy protection polices, and conduct a campaign to encourage Google to become the standard-setter in customer privacy protection.” In terms of general funding, Consumer Watchdog (formerly the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights) receives about a third of its backing from foundations like Rose; the Nathan Cummings Foundation (“committed to democratic values and social justice, including fairness, diversity, and community”); the California Endowment (“a private health foundation that provides grants to community-based organizations throughout California”); and the Arca Foundation (“empowering real change by empowering people to help shape public policy”). Another third comes from legal fees in court cases the group wins and the final third comes from individual donors.