CEO Eric Schmidt's Comment Spurs Google Privacy Concerns
Article by George Norman
On 11 Dec 2009
When you’re logged into your Google account, Web History keeps track of all the queries you enter and all the sites you visit after performing a search query (sites listed in the search results). Google says it keeps track of your browsing data to deliver a personalized search experience, to present the user with more relevant search results.

There were two simple workarounds for this – 1. Pause Web History; 2. Sign out of your Google account. The Mountain View-based search engine giant announced earlier this month that even if you’re signed out of your Google account, your browsing habits will still be tracked - to provide a personalized search experience of course. Read all about it here.


This has naturally raised a few privacy concerns. After all, if I sign out of my Google account to search for something, it means I want to do it without Google keeping track of it. Google CEO Eric Schmidt in an interview for CNBC’s special “inside the Mind of Google” did not make things better when he said the following:

“I think judgment matters. If you have something that you don't want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn't be doing it in the first place. 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 and it is possible that all that information could be made available to the authorities,” said Schmidt.

That statement makes Google look like a company that couldn’t care less about your privacy. It makes Eric Schmidt, a successful businessman, look like someone who doesn’t understand privacy at all. Privacy is important on so many levels, from “shallow embarrassments to the preservation of freedom and human rights” as the EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation) noted. Or as security expert Bruce Schneier said, privacy “is an inherent human right, and a requirement for maintaining the human condition with dignity and respect.”

Hearing Eric Schmidt say that is like hearing a pro-surveillance group that says privacy is only meant to harbor illegal activities. It's not that we need "that kind of privacy", it's just that we need privacy. It's like having a private investigator watching you 24/7. Even if you know you're not doing anything wrong, it does feel weird. Even if you were to do something that needs "that kind of privacy", who would be dumb enough to do it online, to search for it with Google?

Tags: Google, Privacy, Eric Schmidt
About the author: George Norman
George is a news editor.
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