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Schmidt & Privacy: Google Anyone Other Than Me

Google CEO and soon to be Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt has made a number of interesting and often controversial statements about privacy. While the official line from Google is that the company is fully committed to respecting the privacy of others, Schmidt has seemingly contradicted that, at one time saying “There is what I call the creepy line,” he said at an event at the Newseum. “The Google policy on a lot of things is to get right up to the creepy line and not cross it.”

Schmidt also offered advice about how to protect your online privacy:

He told CNBC Anchor Maria Bartiromo, on the cable network’s recent special “Inside the Mind of Google,” that people who have something to hide shouldn’t be doing things online that might potentially expose them if law enforcement seeks access to their search histories.

“If you have something that you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place,” said Schmidt.

Today, in a review of Steven Levy’s new book In The Plex, the New York Times highlighted an excerpt where Schmidt asked Google to remove search results about a political donation he had made.

From In The Plex:

One day Denise Griffin got a call from Eric Schmidt’s assistant. “There’s this information about Eric in the indexes,” she told Griffin. “And we want it out.” In Griffin’s recollection, it dealt with donor information from a political campaign, exactly the type of public information that Google dedicated itself to making accessible. Griffin explained that it wasn’t Google policy to take things like that out of the index just because people didn’t want it there. After she hung up the phone, she freaked out. Doesn’t Eric know that we don’t do that?

She called her boss, Sheryl Sandberg, and they had several conversations before they finally trudged up to Eric’s office and told him it wasn’t Google’s job—nor should it be—to filter his personal information.

Google still returns relevant results for Schmidt’s political contributions.

This isn’t the first time that Schmidt made a controversial move regarding his own privacy. In 2005, CNET published an article revealing personal details about Schmidt found via Google. In response, Google effectively blacklisted CNET for a year. In a parenthetical aside in another article about Google, CNET wrote “Google representatives have instituted a policy of not talking with CNET News.com reporters until July 2006 in response to privacy issues raised by a previous story.”

At SMX West, Danny Sullivan and I had the pleasure of doing a keynote conversation with Steven Levy about his experiences at Google. I just received the book this morning and am devouring it—stay tuned for more nuggets from Levy’s truly unprecedented access to the people at the Googleplex.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.

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