When Your CEO Suggests Moving In Response To Privacy Questions, Time For A New CEO

from the out-of-touch dept

Yikes. There are plenty of reasons why Google’s Street View offering is not the privacy nightmare that some people are trying to turn it into. It’s a public view of things that anyone can see. It’s also static and way out of date. But, Google’s going to run into problems if it keeps letting CEO Eric Schmidt comment on the various privacy concerns people are raising. While we were among those who mocked the ridiculously over-exaggerated anti-Google video made by the group Consumer Watchdog, that tried to portray Eric Schmidt as a creepy old man spying on everything you do, Schmidt himself isn’t doing the company any favors lately. We already had mentioned his bizarre idea that kids might change their names upon becoming adults in the future, but Schmidt just keeps on making rather creepy statements about privacy that suggests someone totally out of touch with what people are actually complaining about.

John Paczkowski has a list of Schmidt’s rather tone-deaf responses to privacy questions lately:

  • Addressed criticisms of Google’s stance on privacy by saying, “If you have something that you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place.”
  • Claimed people want Google to “tell them what they should be doing next.”
  • Said of Google, “We know where you are. We know where you’ve been. We can more or less know what you’re thinking about.”
  • Said this: “One day we had a conversation where we figured we could just try to predict the stock market. And then we decided it was illegal. So we stopped doing that.”
  • Suggested name changes to protect adults from the Web’s record of their youthful indiscretions.
  • Said this: “What we’re really doing is building an augmented version of humanity, building computers to help humans do the things they don’t do well better.”

And, then, there’s the latest, in which he claims that one reason why Street View isn’t so bad is because you could just move, claiming (not quite accurately) that Street View only visits every place once. But that’s unrelated to the issue. Street View isn’t telling people where you live, so whether or not you live there or if you move is sort of meaningless. There are plenty of reasonable ways to respond to such a question, but it seems like each time Schmidt opens his mouth about these issues, he sounds incredibly out of touch and totally disconnected from the thing that people are actually complaining about.

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Companies: google

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Comments on “When Your CEO Suggests Moving In Response To Privacy Questions, Time For A New CEO”

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Pierre Wolff (profile) says:

Dr. Schmidt! Tear Down Those Lies! [CNN interview]

Clearly, Eric Schmidt is on a media junket given how much he’s being quoted these days. He was on the Parker & Spitzer CNN show and has now taken to…ah, how should I delicately put it…misleading the public 😉

You can see the video and good analysis of two critical points Eric made on Christopher Soghoian’s blog: http://paranoia.dubfire.net/2010/10/eric-schmidts-blames-eu-for-googles.html

Worth reviewing and drawing your own conclusions.

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Re:

You should watch the clip and first, it’s taken out of context and I don’t understand why people get worked up about random sound bites.

I did watch the clip, and I agree that it’s somewhat out of context — as are all of the comments, actually.

But that’s the issue: Schmidt isn’t thinking through — at all — how his comments will be perceived. It’s pretty bad.

Johnny says:

Re: Re: Re:

C’mon. There’s no pleasing everybody, there is nothing he can say that won’t be taken out of context by some.

Your title: “[Schmidt] Suggests Moving In Response To Privacy Questions” is not true. That was not a suggestion in response to a question, he was pointing out that if you moved Streetview wouldn’t know it because it’s not monitoring anything and it’s not real time.

The article you linked to states: “Eric Schmidt’s suggestion that people who don’t like the company publishing pictures of their homes and businesses on its Street View service should move to protect their privacy” also NOT what he said AT ALL.

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

C’mon. There’s no pleasing everybody, there is nothing he can say that won’t be taken out of context by some.

I agree, but he seems to say a *lot* of stuff that can be taken seriously out of context. It looks bad for the company. All of these situations are ones where there are perfectly reasonable responses, and Schmidt almost never seems to make those responses.

Johnny says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

“I agree, but he seems to say a *lot* of stuff that can be taken seriously out of context.”

Everything can be taken out of context. You’d have to be some sort of super human to be able to think of all the ways something can be taken out of context in the microsecond before you say it. Last time I looked Schmidt was a mere human being.

BTW you should know, you have one or more trolls here that do nothing but take what you say out of context.

Here’s the thing: you can either try to understand what he’s trying to say, or look for ways to misinterpret what he says.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

Corporate PR spokesmen, executives, and politicians go through a lot of training to learn how to say things in a way that avoids having them be taken out of context. I think much of what hurts Google is that they don’t do this. This is good in a sense that they don’t waste a lot of energy and time and money doing this and instead they focus their efforts towards innovation and providing better services. It’s bad in the sense that it allows everyone to take them out of context. There are ways to word things so as to avoid being taken out of context. It takes practice, sure, but it can be done. and for a company like Google, who has the money, they can afford to either hire someone to train their executives how to avoid being taken out of context or they can afford to hire some PR spokespeople who specialize in answering these kinds of questions in a way that avoids being taken out of context.

Marcus Carab (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

Schmidt heads a company where, arguably, their biggest weakness is privacy concerns around the world. If anything is holding Google back, and if anything threatens to topple Google in the future, it’s privacy.

Google knows this, and yet they keep doing astonishingly stupid things while Schmidt constantly says stuff that makes him sound so out-of-touch it’s ridiculous. I understand the real meaning of a lot of those Schmidt quotes, and I even wholeheartedly agree with him on a couple of them (when understood in context) – but the simple fact is he needs to keep his mouth shut and think before he speaks.

Johnny says:


Oh please, Eric Schmidt was just pointing out that the Streetview was static and outdated. This source you quote appears rather anti-Google and doesn’t supply the exact quote for verification. Most of those other quotes by Mr. Schmidt I just read as warnings, where he’s trying to make us aware of reality.

What’s creepy is how obsessed some people can be with twisting every word this guy says in the most negative possible way.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Misinterpretation

Sure, but the media doesn’t care. The MSM will take anyone out of context any chance it gets, not just Google. The difference between Google and most other corporations is that most corporations understand that our dishonest and unreliable MSM will take them out of context every chance it gets and so they go through a lot of effort so as to word things in a way that avoids being taken out of context.

Sure, you and I on techdirt may understand that he was taken out of context. But the general public generally believes whatever the MSM tells the to.

ChurchHatesTucker (profile) says:


Question: You say that, but can somebody come to you and say that we need information about Kathleen Parker.

Schmidt: Under a federal court order, properly delivered to us, we might be forced do that, but otherwise no.

Question: Does that happen very often?

Schmidt: Very rarely and if its not formally delivered, then we’ll fight it.

Oh yeah, just like they’ve distinguished themselves by fighting improperly formatted DMCA takedowns and such….

out_of_the_blue says:

"incredibly out of touch and totally disconnected"

Certainly true, AND Schmidt has a LOT to hide, so some of it is bound to pop out.

“Google doesn’t do data mining” is one you missed. To me it’s the most indicative of all: he flatly denies Google’s over-arching purpose, thereby confirming it. A flat denial like that (as Clinton: “I did not have sex with that woman”) just borders on psychopathic. If you try to hedge that Google merely provides data to others (as I suspect Schmidt might have been attempting) then it’s actually worse, still a lie, and we’ll certainly want to know what entities those are.


Tom Landry (profile) says:

Oh FFS’s Mike take a deep breath. I think Schmidt was simply being glib about the overwrought whining of conspiracy theorists and the anti-Google brigade.

Everything to these people is a “slippery slope” and I believe Schmidt is simply looking to point out how ridiculous their concerns are.

If he WASN’T being a smartass I’d think those around him (and shareholders) would have him carted off to the nervous hospital long ago.

mattarse (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I’m quite curious about this as well, all I can think of (and I am not a lawyer, nor do I work in finance to have any background for this) is that maybe there are conflict of interest implications.

I would also think it might be illegal if they somehow tied in the algorithm which adds advertisements to gmail to a stock market predictor.

Tried finding some explanation via google 🙂 but nothing popped out for me.

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