Feeds

Schmidt: 'Elites' not 'common men' fret over net privacy

Why Google needs a nanny

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Protecting against web application threats using SSL

In the end, Eric Schmidt can't help but undermine his own defense of Google's data collection and retention policies.

Speaking with The London Evening Standard this week, Google's executive chairman and former CEO said that "elites" are more concerned with what data Google retains than "the common man". The implication was that the so-called "elites" have blown the issue out of proportion, but his words only highlight how big the issue really is.

It's true. "The common man" doesn't care. But this is because the common man doesn't realize his data is being retained.

Schmidt said Google "fully discloses" its data retention policies. "In Google's case, we solve that problem in respect of log retention... So your searches - and again this is all very fully disclosed - are kept for 12 to 18 months in a complex series of ways, and after that, we anonymize them," he told The Evening Standard. But the common man is none the wiser.

At Google, data retention is very much an opt-out situation, and most people have no idea their searches remain on Google's servers for so long. And opting out isn't exactly easy.

Schmidt speaks of Google "solving" the log retention problem. It's not solved, and what Google has done, it only did under pressure. The company adjusted its retention policies only after complaints from elites at the EU. Previously, your search data was set to remain untouched on the company's servers in perpetuity.

During his trip to London this week, Schmidt also spoke at a Google-sponsored privacy event, and according to our man on the ground, the irrepressible Eric made a point of saying that the world's governments should let net companies regulate themselves when it comes to privacy. But if governments had left Google to its own devices, data retention would be a far greater problem than it is today.

According to The Evening Standard, Schmidt supported his argument about data retention and the common man with a mention of Google Street View in Germany. Street View sparked complaints mong the elites in Germany, Schmidt apparently argued, and yet the service is "overwhelmingly" popular there. His argument is a bit muddled – Street View is very different from search log retention – but Schmidt does succeed in highlighting another example of Google pushing the limits of privacy until someone finally gives the people the right to push back.

After government complaints, Google agreed to let German residents opt-out of having their buildings appear online, and nearly 250,000 German households and businesses asked to have their building blurred. At that London event this week, our man reported, Schmidt said the "customer" should decide how the customer's data is used. The customer should. And that's why we need a higher power ensuring that Google doesn't make those decisions on its own. ®

Reducing the cost and complexity of web vulnerability management

More from The Register

next story
Infosec geniuses hack a Canon PRINTER and install DOOM
Internet of Stuff securo-cockups strike yet again
Apple Pay is a tidy payday for Apple with 0.15% cut, sources say
Cupertino slurps 15 cents from every $100 purchase
Spies would need SUPER POWERS to tap undersea cables
Why mess with armoured 10kV cables when land-based, and legal, snoop tools are easier?
Israeli spies rebel over mass-snooping on innocent Palestinians
'Disciplinary treatment will be sharp and clear' vow spy-chiefs
YouTube, Amazon and Yahoo! caught in malvertising mess
Cisco says 'Kyle and Stan' attack is spreading through compromised ad networks
Hackers pop Brazil newspaper to root home routers
Step One: try default passwords. Step Two: Repeat Step One until success
Microsoft to patch ASP.NET mess even if you don't
We know what's good for you, because we made the mess says Redmond
NORKS ban Wi-Fi and satellite internet at embassies
Crackdown on tardy diplomatic sysadmins providing accidental unfiltered internet access
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
WIN a very cool portable ZX Spectrum
Win a one-off portable Spectrum built by legendary hardware hacker Ben Heck
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Security and trust: The backbone of doing business over the internet
Explores the current state of website security and the contributions Symantec is making to help organizations protect critical data and build trust with customers.