Imagine wandering through Times Square and seeing a 60-foot-tall animation depicting you (yes, you) as a creepy child-baiting ice cream truck driver. How would you feel? That's probably the question Google's Eric Schmidt is being asked today.
A group calling itself Consumer Watchdog, which has decided that Google is evil incorporated, has taken the unusual step of buying up space on NYC's Jumbotron and commissioning a 15-second cartoon that paints Eric Schmidt as a data pederast.
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But that's just the beginning. The Watchdogs have also produced a 90-second version that's available on Schmidt's own YouTube (cue ironic theme music here):
Normally I have no problem skewering rich corporate CEOs whose companies operate as if they can barely tolerate being in the same room as their customers. But I'm not sure Google exactly fits into that category.
Yes, Google has plenty of privacy screwups to be sorry for: the Buzz debacle, in which its Twitter-like update service began by broadcasting which Gmail users were in contact with each other most often (potentially revealing relationships that were intended to be private); the Wi-Fi spying scandal, where Google's Street View camera vans were found to be slurping up data from unprotected Wi-Fi networks around the world; the company's insistence on clinging to its users' search data for years (now reduced to 9 months) without ever asking permission or explaining why.
Google's apparent capitulation to the telecom industry on Net neutrality isn't helping its reputation, either.
But Consumer Watchdog is mostly picking on Schmidt because a) he's become the most visible symbol of Google, given how much Sergey and Larry lurk in the shadows, and b) he's made a few public statements lately that could chill a nuclear furnace.