Google CEO’s creepy advice: ‘Just move’

Maybe Google CEO Eric Schmidt thought he was making a joke, but you’d think by now — if he is at all serious about respecting consumers’ privacy — the billionaire executive would understand that privacy is not a laughing matter.

Whatever his motives, he was at his creepy worst late Friday when he was interviewed on CNN’s Parker Spitzer. When co-host Kathleen Parker raised questions about her concerns over how much the Internet giant knows about her, Street View came up.

“Street View. We drive exactly once,” Schmidt said. “So, you can just move, right?”

Video of the exchange was posted on the Internet. The clueless remarks were dropped from the cable broadcast and by evening the broadcast version was what was also readily available on the CNN Parker Spitzer Internet site. (View that at the end of this post)

Monday a short video including the creepy Street View exchange was available on CNN’s site. View it just below.

Cleaning up after the gaffe-prone CEO has got to be one of the busiest PR jobs in the world these days.  Google offered this explanation to John Letzing at Marketwatch, who broke the story:

“The point Eric was making is that our Street View service provides only a static picture in time, and doesn’t provide real-time imagery or provide any information about where people are. Of course, we also allow users to request that their home be removed from Street View.”

John Paczkowski, over at All things Digital, wondered why the exchange was cut.  He reports:

“CNN says Google did not ask that Schmidt’s remark be removed from the broadcast version of the show. ‘Producers routinely make editorial decisions about what sound bites to include in their shows,’ a spokesperson told me via e-mail. ‘In this case, the clip was posted on and disseminated to other media outlets and was widely available.’”

Paczkowski goes on to catalog some of the more outrageous things Schmidt has said over the last year. Here’s a recap; he writes that Schmidt:

  • 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.”
  • 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.”

I suppose there is an upside to Schmidt’s outspoken outrages. We at least know what Google’s CEO is thinking and how much the Internet giant’s corporate culture must change.

Part of Google’s privacy initiative, announced the day Schmidt was putting his foot in his mouth and Alan Eustace, Senior VP, Engineering & Research was admitting Google’s Wi-Spying captured emails, URLs and passwords, is new privacy and security training for all employees.

Eric Schmidt needs to be in the first class.

Published by John M. Simpson

John M. Simpson is a leading voice on technological privacy and stem cell research issues. His investigations this year of Google’s online privacy practices and book publishing agreements triggered intense media scrutiny and federal interest in the online giant’s business practices. His critique of patents on human embryonic stem cells has been key to expanding the ability of American scientists to conduct stem cell research. He has ensured that California’s taxpayer-funded stem cell research will lead to broadly accessible and affordable medicine and not just government-subsidized profiteering. Prior to joining Consumer Watchdog in 2005, he was executive editor of Tribune Media Services International, a syndication company. Before that, he was deputy editor of USA Today and editor of its international edition. Simpson taught journalism a Dublin City University in Ireland, and consulted for The Irish Times and The Gleaner in Jamaica. He served as president of the World Editors Forum. He holds a B.A. in philosophy from Harpur College of SUNY Binghamton and was a Gannett Fellow at the Center for Asian and Pacific Studies at the University of Hawaii. He has an M.A. in Communication Management from USC’s Annenberg School for Communication.

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