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Consumer Watchdog Channeling Marcel Marceau Consumer Watchdog Channeling Marcel Marceau

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Consumer Watchdog Channeling Marcel Marceau


Jeff Smith Scoops2U, an ice cream company waits to distribute free ice cream to passers by for the group Consumer Watchdog as part of a "Google Track Team" to raise awareness about data sharing on the day that Google CEO Eric Schmidt testifies on Capitol Hill. (Sept. 21, 2011)  

Who needs a lobbyist when you can hire a mime to get your message across to lawmakers?

While talk is currency in Washington, Consumer Watchdog is taking the opposite tack by hiring people who don't talk to highlight the group's concerns over how Google collects information about Internet users.

Consumer Watchdog plans to deploy a group of mimes wearing white track suits emblazoned with Google's "Don't Be Evil" motto Wednesday, just as Google Chairman Eric Schmidt is set to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee. The mimes will mercilessly track senators and their staffers as they move through the Dirksen Senate office building..

Consumer Watchdog and other groups have been critical of Google's privacy policies and business practices.

Wednesday's hearing before the Judiciary Antitrust Subcommittee will focus on whether Google's dominance over the online search market is harming competition or helping consumers.

"We want to dramatize Google's online tracking and focus attention on the issue," Consumer Watchdog's John Simpson said via e-mail. "If you track people in the real world, it's stalking, if you do it online it's just business. Besides, mimes can be creepy and tracking is creepy."

In addition to the mimes, Consumer Watchdog also will be playing off a previous anti-Google stunt by having an ice cream truck on Capitol Hill to give out free ice cream along with information about Google's data collection activities. It's playing off a video that Consumer Watchdog displayed in New York's Times Square last fall showing a cartoonish Schmidt offering free ice cream to children while he collected personal information about them.

As for Wednesday's hearing, Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., a member of the Judiciary Antitrust Subcommittee, told reporters Tuesday that senators will ask Google about how it uses its power in the marketplace.

"I'm going to be asking questions that will be challenging on those issues of Google's power in the marketplace and whether it has acquired the kind of dominance that means it has certain legal responsibilities and whether it has complied with those responsibilities," Blumenthal said.

As Connecticut attorney general, Blumenthal launched a probe last year after Google revealed that its Street View vehicles, which collect images for its mapping service, had "mistakenly" collected personal data from unsecured home and business Wi-Fi networks.

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