Schmidt on privacy: I couldn't agree with him more

Schmidt on privacy: I couldn't agree with him more

Summary: Eric Schmidt said in a CNBC special recently that "If you have something that you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place". Does this mean Google doesn't take your privacy seriously? Obviously not.

TOPICS: Google, Legal, Security

Eric Schmidt said in a CNBC special recently that "If you have something that you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place". Does this mean Google doesn't take your privacy seriously? Obviously not.

Your privacy is important -- and is respected by Google. However, if you are under investigation for something, you should be subject to the law -- and that's something that Google certainly obeys. How is this respecting your privacy, you might ask? Well let's frame this scenario a different way.

If someone committed a crime against you, and the only evidence was sitting in the perpetrator's Gmail account, wouldn't you be glad that under the law, Google can be requested to release information to authorities? I would think the answer is "yes".

Google has stated that your data is secure -- and it is. Not just anybody within Google can access your information -- it's under lock and key, even internally. Only a select few people within the company have access to information -- and I'd think any access is well documented.

What's your take on the situation? If you want to argue against the situation, now's your time to speak! Let's hear what you have to say in the Talk Back.

Topics: Google, Legal, Security

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  • I partly agree

    I use GMail and don't worry about absolute privacy. I don't really want it all over the web, but it would not destroy my life nor put me in jail. Plus, it is deleted after a certain length of time, by me and/or Google (at least it is supposed to be).

    My personal documents are slightly different. They go way back and tell a more complete picture of my life. I do not put them in the cloud and probably never will. Again, a breach would not destroy my life nor put me in jail, but I don't want the world to know that much about me.

    Does Schmidt put his entire life in the cloud?

    Probably not.
  • You've *GOT* to be kidding me

    In a very limited scope of the sense, I agree that people who are innocent generally have less to fear. To boot, if I was falsely accused of a crime, I'd quite likely be glad to let a judge/jury look into my email to see that I am, in fact, innocent.

    But still, Google is a for-profit company, and a publicly traded one at that. While I'm sure that they're not tying gmail accounts to IP addresses to search strings and selling it to the highest bidder, the fact is that ultimately, something identifiable like that is not beyond their scope of ability. Additionally, a wise man once said that things used to enslave the innocent are invariably first used on the guilty. Yes, I would expect Google to comply with a search warrant and subpoena issued by a court. I do not, however, trust them to be above doing somebody a solid who says "pretty please". The attitude of Schmidt here comes across as "once you submit it to us, it's our property and we can do whatever the hell we want with it".

    Yes, I understand that the things that I search for will end up as being a statistic. I couldn't care less if I was one of 6,817 searches for "Freeware EPS viewer" yesterday. I don't even care if I'm one of 522 searches for "Freeware EPS viewer" in New York yesterday. But once I start seeing adsense ads on sites I've never been to serving up ads for great prices on Adobe Illustrator where the contents of the site itself have nothing to do with vector graphics, THAT I 've got a problem with.

    In my book, Google is used for search and maps. period. I don't have gmail, I don't have google docs, and if Google announces some sort of backup service, they can shove it. Google is getting to the point where I officially trust them less than Microsoft.

    Here's a good example from the forums over at Slashdot (

    Suppose that someone is struggling with the desire to molest a child, but has committed absolutely no crime to that extent. This individual then does a Google search to see if there is some sort of psychologist or other such specialist from whom they can obtain assistance so that they *don't* ever commit such a crime. A politician running for election next year asks Google for a list of people doing a Google search for pedophilia or child pr0n, saying "pretty please". Google obliges, because after all, only people looking to molest children would be Googling for it. That's the way Schmidt sees it, anyway. Now if this person were to, say, want to quit smoking or drinking or smoking marijuana, they'd get all the assistance and social backing available. Instead, everyone goes OMGWTFBBQ!!!!111 and this person, looking to do the right thing and get help, instead gets arrested.

    Like I said, in a specific sense, I agree with what Schmidt is saying - I don't post things on Facebook that I don't want my boss, my pastor, my sister, or my other ~600 Facebook friends knowing. Facebook is by nature a place where lots of eyeballs will see something that I might not want them to see (at least not through Facebook). But there is a difference between Facebook (not even going into the privacy issues they've got on their own), giving information to a company who will only comply with a court order, and a company who feels that it is necessary for their company motto to be "don't be evil", something that should really be as bleeding obvious as "don't post our secret search algorithm on Twitter".

  • You misunderstand the issue

    It was never about what information Google will hand
    over to the authorities, it is about <i>the
    information that Google accumulates</i>.

    Google is much more aggressive is collection data than
    anyone else.

    If your neighbor or a rival holds a grudge against
    you, will he be able to "discover" this information
    through a legal process? What happens in the future?
    Laws can change, data remains.

    You are totally ignorant about the issue of privacy.
    You are promoting an Orwellian society where every
    little detail about our lives are open for scrutiny.

    You are dangerous.
    • Then we need laws that restrict what the authorities and take

      If you are suspected of murder and there is a good amount of evidence and reason to believe Google has the key to convicting you, then it should be given over (even if you are innocent).

      If you are suspected of shoplifting a 7-11, or you didn't pay a small debt to your neighbor, they shouldn't be able to snoop your online data.

      Unless you are a felony suspect with probable cause for search and seizure, you're online data should be kept off limits to the authorities.

      Furthermore, everything they collect should be held confidential and only that parts that can contribute to a conviction should be revealed.

      Regardless, data can change because Google can delete stuff. However, the quality of Google's services depends on having massive amounts of data. People who are afraid of that, should not use Google.
    • Open for scrutiny?

      If you mean it's open (as in my front door is
      open),it's not. You can't come into my house
      unless I invite you. In the free world, the
      authorities can't come in or even tap my phones,
      without a search warrant and they have to
      present a strong argument to the courts to do so
      - not a 'pretty please'.
      You might be able to break into my house but I
      doubt breaking into Google is so straight

      And all this angst about Google. I haven't heard
      anyone going off their nuts about Hotmail or
      Yahoo. Personal search term aggregation? Bing!!
      The lights are on.
    • Don't Worry About Google

      Instead, worry about an Orwellian society that
      would force google to give up your info.
      Prime Waverider
  • RE: Schmidt on privacy: I couldn't agree with him more

    "If someone committed a crime..."

    Well, that's a great thing, isn't it? "If".

    How about this one:

    If someone committed a crime against you, wouldn't you be glad if Tony Soprano was a real guy, and was in fact your best friend because you saved his life earlier? One word from you, and he'd send his goons to deliver some quick justice, and your problems are gone forever.

    Oh... that's different. Is it? You must be thinking about the downside. Your friend Tony comes with some risks. Maybe suddenly he decides he doesn't like you any more. Or gets caught or killed. Or you don't like the secrecy, or his methods.

    Google also has a downside. Do you REALLY believe the data is secure from external and internal threats? I don't. Do you think Google or any private company should be a proxy for data collection that governments can't legally do on their own? I don't. Is it only the guilty who have something to fear? Certainly not. I think many good US soldiers died to fight against just that sort of thinking.
  • RE: Schmidt on privacy: I couldn't agree with him more

    I'm disappointed you should endorse what I think is a very misguided, ignorant and Orwellian remark by Schmidt.

    ?If you have something that you don?t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn?t be doing it in the first place?. - No, that's not correct at all. There are a great deal of reasons to want to keep something private without it necessarily being untoward or against the law and even that presumes that the law is such an infallible guide to how we people should live their lives where the reality is far different. The key point is privacy is not a privelige, it's a basic component of autonomy and liberty and it doesn't need to be justified by explaining what it is you want to keep private. You cannot have privacy and then say it's negotiable if you don't conform to x,y,z. If crime is a problem then you need to look at the system that makes it more appealing to be a criminal or even reconsider the law itself that was broken instead of attributing it to too much privacy which is the implication I resent.
  • Maybe

    ?If you have something that you don?t want anyone to
    know, maybe you shouldn?t be doing it in the first

    The important word here that many seem to miss is
    "maybe". He never said that everything you do on the
    Internet should be put under the scrutiny of law
    enforcement, or be made public.

    Comparing track records, I would be more concerned
    about your ISP. They too collect a huge amount of
    data. And they seem far more willing to share it.
  • There are plenty of things people use Google for that require privacy

    and these are legitimate things.

    So, I think Schmidt put his foot into his mouth.
    D T Schmitz
    • Yes, it is very important to put limits on under what conditions, and then

      what information that the Government can take from
      your account. But, this is all over blown. Google
      respects 100% your privacy, we need to be
      concerned about what the government, and laws
      controlling their access to private information.
      • How do you know what percentage

        that Google respects your privacy? You say 100% yet you don't work there, you don't know anyone who works there, you aren't privy to the behind the sceene goings on, yet you say that they respect your privacy 100%?

        Even after Schmidt says [i]"If you have something that you don?t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn?t be doing it in the first place"[/i]?

        He [i]did not[/i] say "Even if you have something that you don?t want anyone to know, we'll respect your privacy".
  • most google users do not live in America

    There are countries where you cannot express your ideas
    freely, where obeying the laws means to put a dissident
    to death or destroy his family. A few years ago Google
    did help Chinese authorities to arrest a dissident. Laws
    are not necessarily good, so data collection may be a
    real threat not to be underestimated.
  • An easy excuse

    Many legitamate things reuire privacy, so Schmit's thought is that your privacy is less impotrtant then the money they can make off of it.

    If exposing the drug dealer down the road will result in the loss of your privacy (thanks to Google?), then don't do it: Let'em keep dealing the drugs.
    • Your interpretation, not Schmidt's...

      All that he is saying, and I also agree, is that if you want to keep anything private, don't post it on the public internet. No more, no less. Eventually, either by human error or a deliberate action such as a hack, it will eventually become public knowledge. Once the genie is out of the bottle, you won't be able to put it back. This is why cloud computing will be doomed to failure. It has nothing to do with legalities, or whether it is a problem with Google, Microsoft, or your local ISP.

      If you don't want it exposed, don't post it where it may have a chance to be made public. It's as simple as that.
      linux for me
      • But isn't that the issue with the whole "cloud" deal

        it's on a server accessable by the web. Anything can happen. How can someone tell you in one breath that if you want to ensure your privacy, don't put it there, yet in the next breath tell you to put it on their server, because it's fine?
      • agreed

        Well put. I'm glad more people are realizing this.
        The one and only, Cylon Centurion
  • The point that is missed is that

    There is a good reason for privacy: so that people
    cannot be harassed for their personal viewpoints.

    For example, I am for repealing all the child sexual
    abuse, statutory rape, and child pornography laws BUT
    I still think that forcible rape of ANYONE, child or
    not, should be a crime.

    Now, what if someone at Google 'slips' the data on
    where I live, what town I am in, etc. to a person who
    is a loony and thinks that just because they dislike
    my viewpoint, they have 'god's permission' to kill me?

    That is very possible, and is the main reason why I am
    leery of what Google is doing in terms of 'data
    mining'... just as I am leery about what the
    government is doing in terms of data mining.

    As I point out to people..... if the internet had been
    around 30 years ago, homosexuality would never have
    been recognized for the totally normal sexuality it
    is, because the people would be being harassed, kept
    from getting jobs, etc. (even to the point of being
    killed) at every single turn by loonies crisscrossing
    the country.
  • RE: Schmidt on privacy: I couldn't agree with him more

    There are a lot of very good reasons to expect privacy from legitimate companies.
    1. Corporate espionage - You put your companies info in the cloud, your account gets hacked and you are out of business.

    2. Personal safety - You put your opinion on a topic in the cloud and some lunatic believes that a deity demands they kill you for your opinion. So I should lose my right to free speech just to prevent lunatics from killing me and my family? 1984 just called and said it would be late but it would get here, just wait for it.

    3. Personal Privacy - it is no one's business what I buy and for who I buy it for. Let's face it, marketer's cut the line between advertising with all out harassment today. The internet is basically one giant commercial. Valuable information is hidden behind pay walls, privacy breaching contracts, and a storm of ads that crowd out anything valuable.

    4. What happens when you get a divorce and your spouse gets access to your data? They use it to ruin your life. Technically getting a divorce is not a crime and your data shouldn't be used to ruin you for engaging in non-criminal legal actions.
  • Google and Gmail is a threat to human privacy!

    Never send email to gmail!