Watchdog Group Requests White House Official’s E-mail After Google Buzz Mishap

Thu, Apr 1, 2010 at 11:32 am

    Consumer Watchdog has filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy to obtain e-mails between Internet policy chief Andrew McLaughlin and his former employer, Google Inc.

    McLaughlin, Google’s former top lobbyist, unwittingly revealed his frequent e-mail contacts on his Google Buzz profile in February. Now the nonprofit consumer group, which opposed McLaughlin’s appointment to the Obama administration post, is raising questions about McLaughlin’s relationship with Google.

    “The public has a right to see exactly what sort of messages have been exchanged with his former employer and colleagues,” John Simpson, consumer advocate for Consumer Watchdog, said in the statement.

    Consumer Watchdog wants access to all records from his White House e-mail, his Gmail account and any other accounts he used as a White House official.

    You can read Consumer Watchdog’s FOIA request here:

    A White House spokeswoman said the e-mails are not subject to the FOIA.

    Consumer Watchdog has expressed concern over Google’s privacy practices, particularly social networking service Buzz, which launched inside millions of Gmail accounts with a default setting that revealed most frequent contacts. Google responded to complaints by quickly modifying the setting. But not before McLaughlin became confused.

    “So I see a big default privacy flaw in Buzz,” McLaughlin wrote in a Feb. 10 Buzz post uncovered by Breitbart’s Big Government. “By default, Buzz adds the people you e-mail most as your ‘followers,’ and then lists them on your public Google Profile Page. In other words, Google exposes the people you list of people you e-mail most, by default, to the world. That violates my sense of expectations – I expect the list of people I e-mail most to be kept private. What should I do? I guess I don’t really have an option other than turning off Buzz. Any other ideas?”

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