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Consumer Watchdog Plants Gargantuan Anti-Google Ad in Times Square

Eric Schmidt Times Square AdAfter Google inadvertently gathered personal information from its Street View cars and rendered Gmail addresses more visible with the ill-conceived launch of Google Buzz, the company soon found itself under fire from governments and consumer advocacy groups. Few critics, however, have been as vocal as Consumer Watchdog, which has now placed an enormous anti-Google ad in the middle of Times Square.

As Fast Company explains, the 540-square-foot Jumbotron stunt features a stylized cartoon of Google CEO Eric Schmidt handing out ice cream to children, in exchange for their private information. Titled 'Don't be Evil?' (an obvious reference to Google's well-known motto), the clip portrays Schmidt as a quasi-pedophilic ice cream truck driver who doles out frozen treats to kids, while quietly collecting their personal data. The massive satire was put together as part of a Consumer Watchdog project called 'Inside Google,' in the hopes of raising consumer awareness about what the organization calls Schmidt's complete "lack of regard for our privacy."

Google, meanwhile, casually shrugged off the criticism by denying any allegations that its well-publicized privacy leaks were borne out of malicious intent. "We like ice cream as much as anyone, but we like privacy even more," the company said in response to an inquiry from the AFP. "That's why we provide tools for users to control their privacy online, like Google Dashboard, Ads Preference Manager, Chrome incognito mode and 'off the record' Gmail chat."

Consumer Watchdog, however, insists that the search engine Goliath should do more to protect users. Specifically, Watchdog is calling for the implementation of a 'Do Not Track Me' list, similar to the National Do Not Call Registry that protects consumers from telemarketers, and has already drawn up an online petition for supportive readers to sign.

The cartoon will very likely garner attention, but we wonder whether Watchdog's message will get lost beneath its animated veneer. As Read Write Web points out, Schmidt isn't exactly a high-profile celebrity among the general public, and certainly isn't recognizable by face or caricature. And while Google's logo is placed throughout the animation, a passerby would likely have to watch it from the beginning in order to fully understand the satire. The ad will probably do enough damage to get Google's attention, but perhaps a simpler approach would've resonated more deeply with consumers.

Tags: advertisement, consumer rights, consumer watchdog, ConsumerRights, ConsumerWatchdog, Dont be evil, DontBeEvil, google, privacy, search engine, search engines, SearchEngine, SearchEngines, times square, TimesSquare, top, watchdog