Eric Schmidt's privacy policy is one scary philosophy

Offhand comments by Schmidt about privacy hints that Google is spying, critics say

The Electronic Frontier Foundation was one critic among many concerned over Eric Schmidt's statements on how Google should respect privacy. According to Gawker, when he was asked during an interview for on CNBC's about whether users should concerned about sharing so much information with Google, Schmidt responded, "If you have something that you don't want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn't be doing it in the first place."

So let me see. If you don't want to share with people what books you just checked out of the library, maybe you shouldn't check them out. If you don't want to share with people what you've eaten for lunch, maybe you shouldn't eat it. If you don't want people to know the contents of the love letter you wrote to your spouse, maybe you shouldn't write it. With that line of thinking, maybe we should abolish things like doors and curtains -- after all, if you don't want people to know what activities you are doing in the privacy of your own home, maybe you shouldn't be doing them and if you aren't doing them, why waste all that money on window coverings?

But wait, it gets worse ... Schmidt went on to say that it's important that Google helps the government spy on you: "but if you really need that kind of privacy, the reality is that search engines including Google do retain this information for some time, and it's important, for example that we are all subject in the United States to the Patriot Act. It is possible that that information could be made available to the authorities." Read more about Schmidt's comments.

Gawker didn't fail to note that Schmidt's point of view is not the same one he holds for himself. Schmidt reportedly blacklisted CNET reporters from Google after it published an article with information from Google searches, about Schmidt's salary, neighborhood, hobbies and political donations.

Schmidt was slammed by the EEF, "Google, governments, and technologists need to understand more broadly that ignoring privacy protections in the innovations we incorporate into our lives not only invites invasions of our personal space and comfort, but opens the door to future abuses of power."

Schmidt was slammed by security researcher Bruce Schneier who argued that privacy "is an inherent human right, and a requirement for maintaining the human condition with dignity and respect."

Schmidt was slammed by the Wall Street Journal's John Dvorak, "By turning the argument against the user with 'just don't do anything wrong and you'll be OK,' Schmidt is essentially saying that we are now going to start spying on you. What else can it mean? This sort of proclamation regarding 'the authorities' sounds like something the Stasi or KGB would tell the public. It's a threat. For a chief executive to make what amounts to a threat to its users is absolutely astonishing."

Last week, I noted that Google's free DNS service gives it the power of deciding which Web sites users of that service can visit -- on top of the power it has in showing Web sites in search results. I warned that too much power corrupts. The Big Brother effects come into play when a very powerful entity believes itself to "not be evil" and that the decisions it makes are best for all.

In reading Schmidt's ideas that people are not entitled to do anything that they don't want to share with others, and that the government's need to spy trumps everything, I'm once again reminded, with a shiver, of Big Brother.

Can't say I'd feel differently if Microsoft's Bing were the one amassing all that information. Guess that leaves me rooting for the underdog ... Yahoo ... time to step up.

Please visit the Google Subnet home page for more news, blogs and podcasts. Sign up for the weekly Google newsletter. (Click on News/Google News Alert.) More blog posts from Google Subnet: Subscribe to all Google Subnet bloggers or Follow Google Subnet on Twitter Julie Bort on Twitter.


Join the Network World communities on Facebook and LinkedIn to comment on topics that are top of mind.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

IT Salary Survey 2021: The results are in