Much is being made of the fact that the Electronic Privacy Information Center has called upon the FTC to investigate Google for tying its Google+ social network to its search results.
Some of the more excitable members of the hackery seem to have leapt to the conclusion that if EPIC writes a letter then inevitably an FTC investigation will follow. From the hysterical tone of some articles, you’d think the government has already filed a lawsuit, and that Google had already been found guilty.
But one letter from EPIC does not an antitrust case make. For one thing, EPIC’s director, Marc Rotenberg, has long had an erection for Google — he hates Google even more than MG Siegler, and that’s saying something.
What you also might not know is that Rotenberg has a long history of bitching about tech companies invading privacy, and that one of his most curious crusades was against Caler ID. Rotenberg’s argument was that before Caller ID, you were the one who controlled whether to give out your number, but with Caller ID the phone companies had taken that control away from you.
EPIC’s Web site has a page devoted to Caller ID. Here is an article from the LA Times from 1990 where Rotenberg discusses the scourge that is Caller ID. And here’s one from the New York Times in 1995.
Funny thing is, I learned about this from Elliot Schrage, Facebook’s communications guy, in 2010 when Rotenberg was going after Facebook for pushing its members to share more info about themselves. Schrage was trying to make a point about Rotenberg being the kind of guy who freaks out over new technology.
Now, of course, Rotenberg is going after Google, and (kind of) carrying water for Facebook. My sense is Schrage and his team might have a higher opinion of Rotenberg now than they did last year.