August 28, 2005

Continuing Google Privacy Fallout [6:37 pm]

With a tie to the book publishers concerns about the Googling of libraries: Google Anything, so Long as It’s Not Google

Last month, Elinor Mills, a writer for CNET News, a technology news Web site, set out to explore the power of search engines to penetrate the personal realm: she gave herself 30 minutes to see how much she could unearth about Mr. Schmidt by using his company’s own service. The resulting article, published online at CNET’s News.com under the sedate headline “Google Balances Privacy, Reach,” was anything but sensationalist. It mentioned the types of information about Mr. Schmidt that she found, providing some examples and links, and then moved on to a discussion of the larger issues. She even credited Google with sensitivity to privacy concerns.

When Ms. Mills’s article appeared, however, the company reacted in a way better suited to a 16th-century monarchy than a 21st-century democracy with an independent press. David Krane, Google’s director of public relations, called CNET.com’s editor in chief to complain about the disclosure of Mr. Schmidt’s private information, and then Mr. Krane called back to announce that the company would not speak to any reporter from CNET for a year.

CNET’s transgression is unspeakable - literally so. When I contacted Mr. Krane last week, he said he was not authorized to speak about the incident.

[...] One of the personal items revealed when CNET Googled Mr. Schmidt was a speaker’s biography that he had apparently provided the Computer History Museum for a talk he gave four years ago. He described himself then as a “political junkie who never tires of debating the great issues of our day.” Very well, Mr. Schmidt. When CNET next calls, please pick up the phone and let this debate begin.

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