Barking for a treat on Capitol Hill

Reporters like to hear people talk in colorful, highly quotable catch phrases — it makes for snappy copy.

And savvy media folks know it, too. Jeff Chester at the Center for Digital Democracy has made an art form out of it. It’s kind of like search engine optimization, only instead of trying to make a Web site more visible to Google, these folks are preening for the press.

But there’s a line. Too often people are heard barking from the fringes, serving up punchy one liners confident that it will likely land them some ink, even if it’s a weird diversion from the topic under discussion. Contrarian-minded reporters will often reject this yapping out of hand, refusing to kowtow to a noisy minority.

Game the ranking system, and Google will ban you.

In this case, Google was the target. It was shameless, and frankly a little nonsensical, but by gum, this one was too good not to share.

So I concede, and offer this, what you might call a *clothespin blog*.

This morning, the House Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet [held a hearing](/government/article.php/3759681/NebuAd+Grilled+on+the+Hill+Again.htm) examining just how much broadband service providers know about what their subscribers are doing on the Internet. The nominal topic was deep-packet inspection, but the predominant focus was NebuAd, the startup ad company that pays ISPs to collect their subscribers’ Internet activities in order to serve targeted ads.

So while much of the hearing saw the representatives and several of the witnesses beating up on NebuAd’s program — and NebuAd’s CEO Bob Dykes defending his company — the best line of the day had nothing to do with NebuAd or its controversial program. It went to Scott Cleland, president of the consultancy Precursor, and Chairman of [](, a coalition of Internet service providers that advocates on policy matters such as Net neutrality (against, in case you were wondering).

While ISPs fund NetCompetition, Cleland offered the disclaimer that the thoughts he expressed at the hearing were his own. Foremost among those thoughts was a criticism of the fundamental premise of the hearing: Don’t single out ISPs, particularly when the worst privacy offender in the world (Google) is snooping into people’s medical, financial and every other kind of information out there with impunity. Thanks to Gmail and Google Chat it knows what you’re saying. Thanks to Google checkout it knows what you buy. With the coming Gphone, it will know … exactly … where … you … are.

“This is truly Orwellian Big Brother stuff — Google’s not the government, but all the information that Google collects is on Google’s servers,” Cleland said.

“Google’s market power over private information is corrupting Google,” he continued. “Information is power. Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

Just as FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover went mad with power, whither shall go Google, Cleland assured the representatives. “That’s why I call it J. Edgar Google.”


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