Monday, December 14, 2009

And Suddenly, Google Seems Dangerous.

Show of hands, who here uses Google? That's what I thought.  This blog is a Google product.  I use Gmail, Google Analytics and a whole host of other Google products from time to time.  And I know they keep track of everything I do inside their web space, in some manner.  But I always figured it was in a pretty meta, big picture way.  So hearing this from their CEO is more than a little creepy.

Really? The old, 'if you're not doing anything wrong, you've got nothing to worry about' line?  Why not just slide a manila folder across the table, offer us a smoke, lean back and hook your thumbs into the straps of your shoulder holster?
Relax.  We just want to clear a few things up... You need somethin'? A soda? Coffee?  Lou, get the kid a soda.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (fighting the battles we don't know we're losing) has a nice piece about this on their site.   I'll steal a bit of it:
 In response to Schmidt, Security researcher Bruce Schneier referenced an eloquent piece he wrote in 2006 that makes the case that "[p]rivacy is an inherent human right, and a requirement for maintaining the human condition with dignity and respect." Schneier writes:

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.

Gawker was quick to point out the personal hypocrisy of Schmidt's dismissive stance, noting that for about a year, Schmidt blacklisted CNET reporters from Google after the tech news company published an article with information about his salary, neighborhood, hobbies, and political donations -- all obtained from Google searches. Techdirt noted additionally that Schmidt's statement is painfully similar to the tired adage of pro-surveillance advocates that incorrectly presume that privacy's only function is to obscure lawbreaking: "If you've done nothing wrong, you've got nothing to worry about."

There's also a great quote from Corey Doctorow over there, so check it out.

Also, poke around your Google settings and decide if you want them to save every last thing you've typed into their search engine for the last five years. Because they have that.  Also, check your Facebook privacy settings.  They've changed some stuff over there and it ain't all good.