Google's Close Ties With Obama Administration Reap Rewards, Consumer Group Alleges
Monday, 24 Jan 2011 02:03 PM
By Henry J. Reske
A consumer group is calling for a congressional investigation into allegations that Internet giant Google turned close ties to the Obama administration into corporate benefits. The group, Consumer Watchdog, alleges in a 32-page report that Google has used its connections to gain “unique access” to the government's Moffett Field located near Google’s headquarters in Mountain View, Calif.
In a letter to House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., the group alleged a “cozy relationship with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration that gives Google unique access to Moffett Field near Google’s headquarters, where a fleet of jets and helicopters stand ready to serve Google executives.
“The benefits of the arrangement to date appear to be nothing more than allowing Google executives a launch pad for corporate junkets documented in the report. Others, including a nonprofit humanitarian group, have sought, but been denied, use of the airfield.”
Issa, who has vowed major investigations into the Obama White House, had no comment on the request, his office said.
Consumer Watchdog is a nonprofit consumer advocacy organization that has been pressing Google, through its Inside Google project, to adopt privacy guarantees. Their report, "Lost in the Cloud: Goggle and the U.S. Government," was based on a six-month long investigation that drew on documents released through the Freedom of Information Act.
The report shows that, when the initial deal was struck before then-Sen. Barack Obama was elected president, it called for just four jets to use the airfield and was done “in the name of scientific research.” However, NASA documents show “precious little research has occurred.” Additionally, the Google fleet has grown to six jets and two helicopters and “at least 40 Google employees hold security badges at the base and all the planes are supplied with Department of Defense jet fuel.”
“Meanwhile, flight records show that the other jets parked by Google executives at the NASA field are often used for vacations or schmoozing, including at least three wintertime trips to the Caribbean and a trip by Google chief executive Eric Schmidt to the Cannes Film Festival,” the report said.
The group is also asking for a House investigation into Google’s so-called “Wi-Spy” debacle in which its Street View cars “gathered private data from Wi-Fi networks in more than 30 countries.”
“This is the largest wiretapping scandal in world history by one of America’s biggest and most powerful corporations, yet there has not been a single hearing on Capitol Hill. We respectfully submit that Google CEO Eric Schmidt should be asked to testify under oath so that the American public learns the truth about Wi-Spy,” said Jamie Court, Consumer Watchdog president, and John Simpson, the director of the Inside Google Project.
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