In a recent interview with CNBC, Google’s CEO Eric Schmidt, made the following assertion on Internet privacy: “If you have something that you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place…………………….” A statement, in my view, that is essentially the equivalent of moralistic claptrap.
Moreover, it’s a statement which translates easily into that foolishly held belief, “If you’ve done nothing wrong – you have nothing to worry about.” The truth is, the realities of the world we now live in continue to emphasize; despite the fact you have done nothing wrong – you have everything to worry about.
Disk wipe utilities, disk cleaning utilities, and file shredding utilities, are among the most popular free downloads on the Internet.
Most web Browsers offer a private browsing mode.
Encryption software is often advertised as a way to protect private, personal, or sensitive files.
Anonymizer applications, such as Hotspot Shield, are advertised as a way to protect a user’s online identity.
While there are multiple uses for the software applications, or application options, described above, a primary use of such software is to ensure a certain level of privacy. Of course, if you’ve done nothing wrong you don’t need to use these applications, right?
You have your own reasons for seeking out privacy of course, in both your private and your online life, and I wouldn’t begin to presume to query, or to comment on those reasons. But, I seriously doubt it’s because you’ve done something “wrong”. Instead, it comes down to a fundamental human need – and the need for privacy is fundamental to who we are.
Noted security guru Bruce Schneier, puts it in a relevant context when he says:
“Privacy protects us from abuses by those in power, even if we’re doing nothing wrong at the time of surveillance. 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”.
The Internet is a reasonably true international digital representation of our world. A world with conflicting views on what’s right and what’s wrong, what’s socially acceptable and what’s not, and with varying degrees of both the recognition of, and the need for personal privacy.
For Eric Schmidt to state that he has the answer to this privacy riddle, in a highly complex world, or to assert his moralistic view as to what we should or shouldn’t do, is hardly the perspective one would expect from someone in his position.
He may be a whiz bang when it comes to search engines, but I suggest that he’s a dud when it comes to the psychology of human beings.
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8 responses to “Google’s CEO’s Privacy Statement – A Freudian Slip?”
The use of applications like Hotspot shield will only increase. Australia, where I live, is now proposing, from next year, to install a China like Great Firewall. Apparently, the government thinks it should dictate to us what we view. The reality is, people should be able to view what they like, as long as it is legal and not in any way exploiting anyone else. And they should be able to without others eavesdropping or watching what they do.
Yes, I saw that this morning and I have to say, I was shocked – so much for democracy in Australia. I suspect though, this is the leading edge of the wedge. In Canada where I live, the Govt. at the moment, is doing a reasonable impersonating of a Fascist party (we know what’s good for you – we’ll protect you – you don’t have to like it). It won’t be long before it happens here.
Your right, the use of Hotspot Shield and other apps like it will continue to skyrocket.
Bravo Bill, I was thinking about writing about this as well. I saw Asa Dotzler from Mozilla foundation took a rather courageous stand on Schmidt’s remarks as well. Considering Mozilla gets the lions share of their revenue from Google, and he demonstrated how to change the Firefox search box to Bing. I’d say this may put Google’s “do no evil” motto to test. I hope they are up to it.
Sorry, meant to include this link.
I see Asa has pulled his 2 posts about Schmidt. Call me paranoid but I have to wonder if pressure was applied, or perhaps Asa really had misgivings about his post. I’ve followed his posts for a while now and I’ve never seen him back down before. The motto of Google I mentioned before came from the founders and not the CEO. Large public companies aren’t known for their highly moral stances, perhaps I need to lower my expectations about Google. They are just another huge public company that is in reality an advertising firm, a advertising firm that tracks us everywhere we go. What could go wrong…
I saw a reference to Asa’s article yesterday, but I didn’t have a chance to read it. Now I wish I had, although I did see snippets of his comments on other sites.
Whenever I see Google’s “do no evil” motto, it always reminds me of that old standby slogan “Your call is important to us”. Slogans are important – they sell; they are generally believed; they have a “warm touchy feeling” attached. Unfortunately, in most cases, they tend to be either a gross exaggeration, or an outright lie.
While you are correct in your view, that Google is “an advertising firm, a advertising firm that tracks us everywhere we go”, I think we need to realize it has the capacity to be much more than that. In my view, Google has the capacity to be used as an arm of “paranoid” governments. I have little doubt, that in some instances, it already is.
I’m always slightly amused when I hear of people who object to specific questions on a census form, or who refuse outright to participate. These people fail to realize that that the information available on existing databases makes the information gathered on a census form pale in comparison. Here’s an example – I have a friend who has a problem with alcohol, who always uses his Air Miles card when buying liquor from a govt run liquor store (the rule here in Ontario). One day, when he was showing me his reward points on his Air Miles statement, I pointed out to him that each of his (excessive) liquor purchases were now held on a database, and there was no guarantee that this information was not available to others. The information could be sold, or freely given, to others. This information could have serious repercussions in all areas of his life including medical care, life insurance approvals and so on.
I’ve long made it a point not to participate in merchant reward programs, and when I’m asked at a checkout counter, I generally reply “No thanks, I have no need to be part of another database”. This response always generates the same look from clerks – “Wow, you must be weird”.
So, it’s not just Google we need to worry about. Although, Google’s recent entry into the DNS software field should be ringing alarm bells, but……………
I’m not a conspiracy theorist in any sense, but I do believe that the very structure of Google constitutes an attack on a basic human right – the right to be “left alone”.
Thanks for your comment Mark,
I really want to ask him what wrong that man done for which someone hacked his Credit Card or Paypal? The problem is people not concern about what they should do and what not. That’s why people still visit scam site. If he means putting email id in internet is wrong then that’s another matter. Otherwise the statement is just a statement of average people not a Google CEO’s.
I agree. Thanks for your input on this.