Google snubs press in privacy fury

Adds CNET to Do Not Call list

Google has thrown a hissy fit and blacklisted tech news site CNET's News.com - vowing not to provide quotes or statements to the site for a year.

"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," noted reporter Elinor Mills here.

The previous story, by the same reporter and published on July 14, drew on information largely gleaned from Google itself to note Google CEO Eric Schmidt's political affiliations and hobbies.

"Like so many other Google users, his virtual life has been meticulously recorded," wrote Mills. Since Schmidt is on the public record with a promise to build "a Google that knows more about you", he's hardly in a position to complain when his company is demonstrated to be functioning as designed.

"Shouldn't he resign if he feels that searching through Google's index is so evil?" wrote one correspondent to Dave Farber's IP mailing list.

The move is likely to backfire on two counts. Google isn't alone in amassing one of the world's largest databases of personal information and behavior - as Yahoo! and Microsoft have too. But the retaliation against the news site is only likely to focus more attention to Google's often contemptuous attitude to press and analyst scrutiny (on its first ever financial analyst day the company offered its chef, but not its CFO) and puts its privacy issues firmly in the spotlight.

Secondly, Google's official PR statements typically fall into two categories: the useless and the downright misleading. (We discovered that the hard way, when a promise to deliver a written news policy for its Google News aggregator made one Friday had vaporized by the following Monday; to this day Google has never made a public policy statement of its criteria for including sources in Google News).

By dispensing with the obligatory Google spin, CNET may be emboldened to take an even more critical look at the company.

There are many employees at Google who take its responsibilities as one of the world's largest databases of personal information and behavior seriously. But those responsibilities don't appear to be shared by their management. ®

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