Google CEO says privacy doesn't matter. Google blacklists CNet for violating CEO's privacy.

Google CEO Eric Schmidt says privacy isn't important, and if you want to keep something private, "maybe you shouldn't be doing it in the first place" (in other words, "innocent people have nothing to hide.")

Bruce Schneier calls bullshit with eloquence: "For if we are observed in all matters, we are constantly under threat of correction, judgment, criticism, even plagiarism of our own uniqueness. We become children, fettered under watchful eyes, constantly fearful that -- either now or in the uncertain future -- patterns we leave behind will be brought back to implicate us, by whatever authority has now become focused upon our once-private and innocent acts. We lose our individuality, because everything we do is observable and recordable."

But JWZ has the kicker, when he reminds us that Eric Schmidt's Google blackballed CNet's reporters after CNet published personal information about Schmidt's private life: ""Google representatives have instituted a policy of not talking with CNET News reporters until July 2006 in response to privacy issues raised by a previous story..." "To underscore its point about how much personal information is available, the CNET report published some personal information about Google's CEO Eric Schmidt -- his salary; his neighborhood, some of his hobbies and political donations -- all obtained through Google searches...."

Hey, Eric: if you don't want us to know how much money you make, where you live, and what you do with your spare time, maybe you shouldn't have a house, earn a salary, or have any hobbies, right?


  1. Basic principle for anyone who tries to run the “nothing to hide” argument:

    You first.

    Give the public full access to your bank records, internet records, have a gps locator attached to your body and get yourself followed by a camera crew 24/7.

    1. “Basic principle for anyone who tries to run the “nothing to hide” argument: You first.”

      Love it. And thanks for posting this, Cory!

  2. Dr Eric Schmidt is very clever and wise. Has he changed his mind?
    In July 2009, only few months ago, he was wise enough to declare:
    “I don’t think anyone wants everything revealed. That’s why we have doors and shades and so forth. ”
    “…behavior of PPL online when they are teenagers isn’t the sort of thing that they want to know when they are mature adults in leadership positions…”
    “…I have a specific suggestion that it should be common & legal to change Your name at the age of twenty one and say, “That wasn’t me. It was a different person”
    “I’m very strongly in favor of an individuals right of privacy but I’m very suspicious about Governments …”
    “…our Company makes a commitment to people to respect people’s privacy and their personal information because it’s central to the trust …”
    Read the entire interview transcript of Eric Schmidt for Marketplace in July 2009
    Dan Solove: “‘I’ve Got Nothing to Hide’ and Other Misunderstandings of Privacy” answers E Schmidt
    AND yes, do not attempt to breach Google’s PPL privacy, they might get excommunicate!!!
    GOOGLE don’t be EVIL!

    1. Yeah! I’m so tired of these bastards operating the best available search engine and offering a plethora of useful sevices and software for free. I mean how EVIL can you get?

      I am not being an apologist for Eric Schmidt but, in my opinion, what his comment says is: “Watch out, cos there is little we can do to refuse giving your info to the govt if they request it, thanks to the patriot act”. Some blame can be squared at Google because, as one of the biggest names on the net, they have the best chance of forcing any change in policy. But to ignore that their hands are essentially tied is for the foolish. If you have a problem with Schmidt’s stance, then you’d better get your peeps out on the street to demand changes to the rules guiding Google, or Schmidt is never going to be able to change his tone.

      Funny how in the post a few days back about Yahoo’s execution of the very same things Schmidt is talking about – there was not one single person who stated “Yahoo is evil”.

      Need I also remind you that Bing is the company fucking with the internet by paying companies to demand Google remove links to their site from search listings? Can anyone who stands by their “Google is evil” comment please explain to me what Google is supposedly doing that is so different and terrible to other search engines / sites across the net?

      If not I suppose you’re just falling into the trap of tall poppy syndrome… Or you just want to fit in.

  3. Wow, a week after Rupert declares war on google, and all of a sudden the CEO is being painted as out of touch and a hypocrite.. interesting.

  4. I watched the video segment prepared to be duly outraged, but I just didn’t hear it as his shrugging off the importance of privacy. He said Google does keep records, and that they comply with the government requests that they’re legally required to comply with.

    And yes, he made the “shouldn’t be doing it in the first place” remark, but it didn’t seem to me that he was implying “…and therefore we are cavalier with your privacy,” but instead was suggesting that in the event of court orders and the like there was a limit to the degree of privacy protection that Google was prepared to offer. To me that’s quite different from saying it doesn’t matter.

  5. This has seriously damaged my trust in the Google brand. I’ll be thinking twice about migrating all my documents to GDocs.

  6. Hi Cory,

    I wrote an open letter to Eric Schmidt about that interview.

    Privacy isn’t necessarily about hiding things. It’s about freedom, choice, about the user being able to draw a line somewhere. It is a human need and right. Google provides us with valuable services, but implicitly we pay by giving up (some) or our privacy. That exchange should never be implicit. It creates a fertile environment to ‘Do evil’.

  7. The great Muhammad Ali said it best:

    “Only the nose knows
    Where the nose goes
    When the door close.”

    But yes, I certainly agree that we stretched irony a little too far here Google. I thought you folks where on the whole do no evil kick? I guess when they say they hire only genius level humans at Google they leave out the ‘evil’ genius part until you shake hands in HR.

  8. Information is power. The powerful always want to stay powerful.

    Google has more information than almost anyone (except maybe the US government). The more they use that power, the more powerful it (and CEO Schmidt) becomes.

    So, of course, it’s very tempting for them to rationalize increasing use of that power.

    BUT… I watched the video and I’m not sure that’s the whole story (for this particular clip). The context he’s talking about is Google and the Patriot Act.

    I think he’s basically saying that any data Google has, the US government can access.

  9. Sounds like it’s time for a web project — everyone dig up whatever they can about Schmidt (and Page and Brin, and all their immediate families) and publish it on the web. Make sure that these guys have absolutely no privacy in their lives.

    And do the same for anyone else who claims that “if you’re innocent you have nothing to hide.”

  10. Eric Schmidt the king of double standards. Everyone rememeber the ‘don’t be evil’ ‘We’ll it only applies to the US’ debacle?

    After reading many interviews with Schmidt and some of his more acerbic comments you wonder if his arrogance is only sustainable (and tolerated) because he is CEO of an apparently unassailable leviathan. When one applies the ‘Emperor’s new clothes’ filte, one could be forgiven for thinking that – actually – he comes across as a complete arse.

  11. I’m with ADavies and ChiarasDad on this one.

    Did everyone working up their righteous indignation (including Cory) actually watch the video? Schmidt doesn’t say “privacy doesn’t matter”. He’s saying that his company and other search engines can be compelled to turn over data.

  12. I interpret Schmidt’s remarks as “Stand by the choices you make, or don’t make them.”

    And I don’t think he said anything we didn’t already know. The internet works the way it does. There are some areas online that are secure and some that aren’t. If you use the net you need to know the difference.

    Blackballing CNET was ill advised. I think Google missed an opportunity to use humor to promote online awareness. And I think that is what’s needed. Reminds me of the scene in the original “The Office” series when David Brent discovers the history function on his Web browser for the first time.

    People just don’t get it. They need to be told.

    I think it says a lot for Schmidt’s approach that he mentions the invocation of the Patriot Act as the reason why Google might disclose information. That’s a pretty extreme situation. How is that cavalier?

  13. Meh. I agree with the privacy statement to the extent that it applies online.

    If you want to keep something private, don’t put it on the Internet. And if you have to, host it on your own secure server.

    1. “If you want to keep something private, don’t put it on the Internet.”

      I was about to post the same thing. If you’re ditching work for a day at the beach, don’t put it on Facebook, even if you’ve set privacy to full. If you don’t want someone to see that photo of you leering at the office slut, don’t put it on the Internet, regardless of how secure you think it is.

  14. This should sound warning bells to any organisation that is considering moving to Google’s corporate email service or indeed Google Docs.

    Google is an advertising company and everything else they do is simply to drive increased Internet usages (and therefore advertising revenue) or to more accurately delivery advertising.

    Unfortunately many people see Google = The Cloud and this is unfortunate. There are plenty of cloud vendors who don’t have this conflict of interest who are interested in delivering good services and good privacy.

  15. When I take a shit I do it in private yet after hearing the words of Mr. Schmidt I wonder should I, can I take a shit at all, should I now take my dump in Pall Mall..?

  16. Google’s getting a big head. People use it because it typically finds everything. If they start changing that by blocking people for ANY reason, people are going to turn to their competitors, and they’ll be annoyed for the inconvenience.

  17. So Eric wouldn’t mind if someone published photos of him and his wife, because he aparently wasn’t doing anything criminal in his bedroom.

  18. Regardless where one falls philosophically, the hard fact is there is no privacy anymore. If it’s in the ‘verse it’s available. Cell phones, micro recorders, pinhole cameras, only the well protected are protected. If you don’t want your private stuff ‘exposed’ then don’t expose it. You have control first. Put it out there and you lose control. Don’t make your privacy some other person’s responsibility.

  19. Boing Boing uses Google Analytics to track visitor information.

    Google has the best track record on privacy of any major search engine; and a far better track record than any US phone company.

  20. Information is power. Throught maintaining the single most popular websearch Google are expanding it’s power of the worlds information extreamly quick.

    Google also run more than 300000 servers maintain everything from positioning data to personal interest on more than 60% of all people on the web.

    It’s free, it’s simple, but who controls all this, and what price do we really pay?

  21. I don’t agree with the premise that privacy doesn’t matter — privacy is directly correlated with freedom. You take privacy, you take freedom. Unfortunately, it’s not this simple, either. I agree with post #29. Be responsible with your privacy. Let no one trample or tread on it or your person.

    You cannot do this without a good head on your shoulders, however. If you really want genuine, authentic privacy and freedom — study the laws of your land HARD. If someone even deliberates violating your privacy expecting you to be stupid or ignorant, crush them in court and make them an example to all would-be criminals. You cannot actualize your natural privacy or freedom without first taking responsibility to educate yourself as to where your privacy and freedom ends and another individual’s begins. Education is the key. Reason is the principle.

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