In The NY Times, An Industry-Funded "Consumer Watchdog"

Blog ››› ››› SIMON MALOY

On March 12, the New York Times published an article on Google's acknowledgement of privacy violations during their Street View mapping project that quoted "consumer watchdog" Scott Cleland attacking the online search giant. When you're talking about issues having to do with online content, calling Cleland a "consumer watchdog" is a tough sell given that he's paid by the companies that provide broadband internet services to advance their interests.

Here's the Times' characterization of Cleland:

Complaints have led to multiple enforcement actions in recent years and a spate of worldwide investigations into the way the mapping project also collected the personal data of private computer users.

"Google puts innovation ahead of everything and resists asking permission," said Scott Cleland, a consultant for Google's competitors and a consumer watchdog whose blog maintains a close watch on Google's privacy issues. "But the states are throwing down a marker that they are watching and there is a line the company shouldn't cross."

It's true that Cleland is a for-pay Google critic and much of his time is spent attacking the online giant. But a "consumer watchdog"? Cleland is the chair of, a group that, per its mission statement, promotes "competitive Internet choices for consumers." Among the members of Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Verizon, AT&T -- basically every big provider of fixed or mobile broadband.

Cleland may wrap himself in the cloak of consumer advocacy, but that doesn't necessarily make it so. He's on the payroll of broadband companies to argue for policies that best reflect their interests. He is an industry advocate, one of the many axe-grinders and hired guns in the broadband policy arena looking to earn their keep by getting themselves quoted in the paper advancing the argument for their side. And that's fine, so long as the paper in question informs the reader of the interests backing the sources they quote.

Posted In
Media Structures & Regulations
The New York Times
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