Consumer Group Launches Anti-Google Ad In Times Square, Keeps Google Analytics On Its Own Website

The group Consumer Watchdog is pushing hard for Congress to establish a “do not track” list for online consumers, which I’m all for. I’m not sure whether releasing a ridiculously unpleasant cartoon in Times Square is the right strategy, though–especially when you use the very service you’re warning people about.

For one thing, Eric Schmidt looks like he might be the Joker, and without audio–the way you’d watch it in Times Square, in other words–you can’t really tell what he’s doing. (Is the ice cream poisonous? Is he a government agent?) Another problem, if you actually listen to the audio, is that the video shows Schmidt luring kids to an ice cream truck and then telling them about their parents’ sexual behaviors, which I don’t think is one of Google’s free services yet.

But the worst is that Consumer Watchdog uses Google Analytics to track users on its own website, notes the San Francisco Chronicle, which is the service the cartoon explicitly calls out with an on-screen graphic (see 1:02 in the video below). Worse, it doesn’t warn people about this as soon as they visit the site the way, for example, All Things D does. (If you’ve visited All Things D before and don’t see the yellow box, you can read the same text here.)

In the world of online tracking, Google Analytics is actually fairly innocuous; to my knowledge it stays focused on incoming traffic and the user’s browsing behavior within the site, not all over the web. Still, if you’re going to make Google’s CEO look like a child-endangering perv to thousands of Times Square tourists every day, it seems to me you should stop making use of the company’s sophisticated user-tracking services.

Update: Jamie Court, the president of Consumer Watchdog, sent in the following response:

Never got a call from the “Business Insider” about their “Busted…group uses analytics” piece but the fact is, as I explain, in the voice mail, our backend platform on Consumer Watchdog hardwires Google analytics into the site, and its a proprietary platform owned by Edelman Communications, bought recently from Grassroots Enterprises, that we cannot control or later. We don’t see eye to eye with Edelman on many issues and have been in the process of leaving that platform for months. The move should be complete by November, and we will be on an open source system that, like our platform, or open source platforms, chooses to avoid Google analytics.

The exercise shows how hard it is to escape Google on the Internet, or know Google is behind many products and services. Most people think of it as a search engine, but it’s a lot more, which is why we are so concerned about its power and growth and established We didn’t choose to have Google Analytics on our back end of our main site, nor do we use data it provides, and we cannot take it off, but we can switch to an open source system, which avoids Google Analytics, and we are in the process of doing just that.

“BUSTED: Anti-Google Privacy Group Consumer Watchdog Is Tracking Your Clicks With Google Analytics” [San Francisco Chronicle]
“Consumer Watchdog Group Goes After Google” [New York Times]


Edit Your Comment

  1. Preyfar says:

    This is the creepiest thing I’ve ever seen. It doesn’t make me hate Google, it makes me hate Consumer Watchdog. This creepy pedophilic version of Schmidt is creepy to no end, and this is just outright tasteless in every way.

  2. shifuimam says:

    It seems like people are overly paranoid about being tracked on the Internet. I mean, it takes some serious ego to think that Google (or anyone else) gives two shits who YOU are and what YOU do, aside from how they can target advertising to you. It’s not like they’re sitting there in California thinking, “I wonder what shifuimam is up to today?”

    • PageMagumbalee says:

      I read a story once about a man who insists google killed his friend because she “knew too much” about how google works. Nuts!

  3. FrugalFreak says:

    Love the video! and we OUGHT not be tracked unless we have explict privacy policy that our data can not go beyond google’s database walls.

    • notovny says:

      You mean like the Google Privacy Policy already says?

      • kingoftheroad40 says:

        Creepy yes but possible right now, technologically speaking.

      • FrugalFreak says:

        Google only shares personal information with other companies or individuals outside of Google in the following limited circumstances:

        ” * We provide such information to our subsidiaries, affiliated companies or other trusted businesses or persons for the purpose of processing personal information on our behalf. We require that these parties agree to process such information based on our instructions and in compliance with this Privacy Policy and any other appropriate confidentiality and security measures.”

        That is just about all of the web. where I go or sites I visit is not anyone else’s business. Right to serve AD’s? alot of Citizens don’t like Ad’s so why would we freely want you to serve them to Us and Us help you?

    • Amnesiac85 says:

      Really? You love that video? That in no way is what Google Analytics does. Continue loving baseless propaganda though, by all means.

      • FrugalFreak says:

        I just thought it was creative, not necessarily true.

        • kmw2 says:

          So you’re OK with untrue advertising as long as it’s creative?

          • partofme says:

            Have you watched any piece of advertising in the past decade? You want to tell me that it’s all true except for this one? All advertising is propaganda to some extent. Some are just more unsettling to you.

            • Michaela says:

              The user didn’t make the claim that all advertising was true. Don’t get off topic, and instead focus on the argument given. One user liked the video because they found it creative. One disliked it because they find the information given to be false. Make a comment about either statement, rather than something completely different than what is being discussed.

              • partofme says:

                How is that off topic? I’m making a general observation concerning advertisements which supports the line of thinking of FrugalFreak. The idea being (as I understand it) that whether an ad maintains strict adherence to fact is inconsequential to whether it’s interesting or effective. It was presented in the immediate case. Opposition to the idea was given. I generalized it to the class of (nearly) all advertisements. Sounds pretty on topic to me. In addition to being a generalization of the first idea, my comment also presents a mechanism for application of the opposing idea to a larger class of advertisements, i.e. if you’re not alright with factual information being distorted for creativity and impact in advertisement, then you better be against nearly all advertisements. This mechanism then allows an analysis to flow. Either one finds that one is against a very large class of advertisements, or one finds a contradiction with a particular application. Either way, an interesting proof concerning human thought processes is shown. Finally, I would argue that such a generalized analysis was nearly demanded, as the drive toward generalization was initiated in kmw2’s comment. It is obviously not phrased in a way that implies narrow application to a particular example. Rather, it drives the reader toward considering a more general class of examples.

            • kmw2 says:

              I admit, I don’t watch television very often, but I’m fairly sure that making advertising claims that are blatantly false is still frowned upon.

  4. Nick1693 says:

    A “do not track me” list?

    You mean, like this?

  5. Bob Lu says:

    See? EVERYONE loves Google, including those who hate Google.

  6. Sonicjosh says:

    A list like that would work against Google, but not against other companies that do far worse stuff with your data than Google. I should not that I watched the video on Google Reader, and the video is hosted on Youtube (which is owned by Google).

    Google is one of the few companies willing to take a risk and innovate, and a bunch of the stuff they offer is free.

  7. Jemish says:

    The website is probably maintained by someone who was hired solely to take care of the technical aspect of the dot com. It doesn’t necessarily mean that everyone at Consumer Watchdog is whispering in the janitors closet about their Google analytics results.

    Someone has a job to do there, their job may be only the site, and they find it easier to report or find things like 404s through Google webmaster tools. Whoever that person is there, will probably have their face ripped off now by someone who doesn’t understand the internet very well and potentially lose their job.

    • Nick1693 says:

      I use Google Analytics on my own site and can honestly say it does nothing other than an approximate location of each visit (based on IP address, which is not shown) and the number of visits from that location. Nothing to whisper about in the janitor’s closet.

      • FrugalFreak says:

        That may be all you see, but Google I imagine sees much more as do the corporate websites that have it and pay for more info.

        • Nick1693 says:

          That’s the thing, any website owner can see more info than I see from Google Analytics.

          I have a log of the IP address and user agent string of every visitor. Anyone who wants to track “you” can do it easier than going through Google.

  8. TasteyCat says:

    27 sites by this GAnalytics ID. Apparently they put it on all their sites.

  9. Fuzz says:

    Somebody should tell these guys that Youtube is owned by Google.

    • Michaela says:

      I agree. I love how you can follow them on YouTube (and Facebook, who has been in the news over privacy issues as well).

      Honestly, I am not that worried about my internet privacy. All the arguments presented in this video seem to be things I could just find by looking at someone’s internet history, and I don’t post things on the internet that I would be too terribly embarrassed for anyone to find.

  10. There's room to move as a fry cook says:

    “All the children say hello
    To Mr. F*llatio, the ice-cream man”
    – Ivor Biggun

  11. ReverendTed says:

    So, according to Consumer Watchdog, I should lobby for a “Do Not Track” list so that I can…cheat on my spouse?

  12. stormbird says:

    I run Firefox with the NoScript and Adblock extensions. I can block the cookies and scripts from advertisers/trackers with no loss of functionality. Mostly I do this so people can’t track my lolcat addiction. I can has anonymity?

  13. AstroPig7 says:

    This… is borderline libel.

  14. isileth says:

    If you use Firefox with the extension No-script, google analytics don’t work if you don’t allow it in every site.
    And the sites work just fine.

  15. stint7 says:

    At first glance, I swore that was an animated Alton Brown…

  16. VeritasNoir says:

    Sounds like fear mongering. This group should be taken as seriously as anyone forecasting the end of the world in 2012.

  17. SuperSnackTime says:

    This is absolutely ridiculous.