It has not been a good week for Google CEO Eric Schmidt. His already established notoriety even spread offline this week for his comment that everybody should have the right to change their name after having been so blaze on the web with their personal details. But this doesn’t make Eric Schmidt evil, he is bang on correct.
On Wednesday night I was researching a post where I would see what details I could find on the Google CEO himself using Google products. I managed to find his personal stats and his address, and even found his house on Google Streetview. But as I was looking further I came to realise he wasn’t necessarily instructing people that “this is the state of the web that we are building, and this is what you can do about it”. Rather he was pointing out that “the web is so open beyond anybody’s control”. He has a very good point, and it isn’t all his Google’s fault.
Despite what many people think, Google is not the only acquirer and archiver of data. There are hundreds, thousands perhaps of bots and data storage networks constantly scraping the web, distributing it and storing it again. This post will be archived by 100s of obscure search engines, historical archive services. It will be scrpaed and syndicated automatically across autoblogs and the internet traffic it creates will be monitored for the sake of ranking this site. Spam-finders will be scraping for email and brick address as will the scammers. Keyword and niche services will be trying to determine the post. Ultimately, this is all being done by hundreds of different things and people. All Eric Schmidt did was to bring it to attention and he gets the blame for creating this mentality.
I wrote in June about using real names on the internet. I referenced a site, Quora, that kicked me out for not using a real name. That had nothing to do with Eric Schmidt and yet it is the kind of thing he is mentioning. Fair enough I’m wise enough not to put any personal details on any site, but children (to whom Schmidt was specifically referring to), and the not-web-savvy do put all sorts up because they are unaware of the dangers of the open web and the capabilities of modern technology. The parents can’t exactly teach because they are just as unaware too, either that or they have no idea what their children do online. Or the third option being that they don’t care about being open to identity fraud, sales-targeting, physical theft etc etc.
I’m no fan of Schmidt or Google, I hate the fact that they do retain so much data at all, that’s why I use other search engines. I hate the fact they have the mentality that you needn’t delete an email ever again, I make that extra effort to do so. I hate that they have a picture of my house up without my permission, doing something about that would just lead attention my way. I hate it that Schmidt dodges tax with his $1 salary. I hate how crap Google search actually is in 2010. But I also think that attacking a mans valid reasoning is daft.
So in conclusion the lesson Schmidt is giving us is that your actions online are entirely your responsibility. OK, some sites track browsing habits but you can do something about this. Maybe you tweet your geo-location details every time and are oblivious that I can use this data to rob your house while you are abroad. Maybe you signed up to a site that insisted on having your address and you didn’t know why. I know I’m waffling now onto a wider stance on privacy but here is the closing sentiment. It is your responsibility to know the intentions of the company that you give your details to, even if those details are simply visiting a website. Subject to demand I can create a post stating what details you give away. But trust nobody on the web – even Google.