Google addresses concerns over CEO's privacy statement


— 4:00 PM on December 14, 2009

A recent statement by Eric Schmidt has drummed up quite a bit of controversy, but Google says its CEO's words were taken out of context. In an interview with CNBC last week, Schmidt answered a question about users treating Google like their most trusted friend by saying, among other things, "If you have something that you don't want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn't be doing it in the first place."

The statement caused one Mozilla executive to slam Google on his personal blog and encourage Firefox users to switch to Microsoft's Bing, which he claims has a better security policy. The Electronic Frontier Foundation also criticized Schmidt's response, saying it made it look like Google "is not even concerned enough to understand basic lessons about privacy and why it's important on so many levels -- from protection against shallow embarrassments to the preservation of freedom and human rights."

InformationWeek has received a fresh statement by Google in response to these attacks:

"The context in which Eric answered this question was clear," said a Google spokesperson in an e-mailed statement. "He was talking about the US Patriot Act. The [CNBC] documentary later made clear the lengths to which Google goes to inform and empower users about privacy-related concerns, including creating a dashboard in which users can review and control data in their Google accounts."

As we noted in our original coverage, the footage of Schmidt's response was cut. The CEO started with, "Well, I think judgment matters," then the video immediately cut to the meaty, controversial part—"If you have something that you don't want anyone to know..." Too bad his full reply doesn't seem to have appeared anywhere yet.

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