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Eric Schmidt to head new Pentagon innovation board (reuters.com)
293 points by uptown on March 2, 2016 | hide | past | favorite | 189 comments

Guy who colluded with other high level corporate officers (see techtopus) to artificially limit the salaries of tens of thousands of highly skilled workers, now asked to advise the government on how to do innovation. For purely moral reasons I'd disqualify him from the position. I suspect he'll find some way to leverage this to benefit himself and/or his friends and won't consider any harm to the public. I don't want this guy in this position.

Just to color with the facts - which only underscore your point:

"In one incident, after receiving a complaint from Steve Jobs of Apple, Schmidt sent an email to Google's HR people saying; "I believe we have a policy of no recruiting from Apple and this is a direct inbound request. Can you get this stopped and let me know why this is happening? I will need to send a response back to Apple quickly so please let me know as soon as you can. Thanks Eric". Schmidt's email led to a recruiter for Google being "terminated within the hour" for not having adhered to the illegal scheme. Under Schmidt, there was a "Do Not Call list" of companies Google would avoid recruiting from.[37] According to a court filing, another email exchange shows Google's human resources director asking Schmidt about sharing its no-cold call agreements with competitors. Schmidt responded that he preferred it be shared "verbally, since I don't want to create a paper trail over which we can be sued later?".[36]

Way beyond bad behavior or accidental participant. Flat out collusion.

(1) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eric_Schmidt

There's some critically missing information here that muddies the water and I would like some clarification.

>there was a "Do Not Call list" of companies Google would avoid recruiting from.

>no-cold call agreements with competitors

This explicitly means that the colluding companies would not try to cold-call recruit from each other. These companies are large employers and provide thousands of jobs, cool. This does not say that they would refuse to hire anyone that worked for a colluding company.

So if someone was working for Apple for a wage they were satisfied with (after all they agreed to the wage when they accepted the position), then Google would not try to call them. If that someone decided to apply to Google and try to get a job there because they wanted a higher salary, then would this collusion work against that person? Or would Google consider them for employment as they would consider any other professional?

The effects on wages for the profession aren't what I'm asking about; I'm asking only about this situation.

It was much worse than just a do-not-call.

The evidence states that the defendants agreed not to poach employees from each other or give them offers if they voluntarily applied, and to notify the current employers of any employees trying to switch between them. They also agreed not to enter into bidding wars and to limit the potential for employees to negotiate for higher salaries.


Thank you, you have more courtesy than the people who simply downvoted my question.

He's also very supportive of government surveillance and has spent a substantial amount of his career cultivating relationships with officials.

All this is thanks to the Microsoft anti-trust lawsuit which led Google to choose someone like Schmidt to ingratiate the company with lawmakers to prevent a similar lawsuit.

Mass surveillance is in Google's/Schmidt's DNA.

It's their business model:

More surveillance => most precise profiles on Internet users => most precise ad targeting => higher margin => more $$$

If anything private sector driven surveillance can be creepier-- it's a total "wild west" without even the pretense of public oversight and virtually no regulation. Only the most insanely creepy things like capturing video from your house and using it for analytics might run afoul of the law, and even there you'd have to prove it and prove harm and it would likely be civil not criminal. The NSA and CIA at least technically answer to the public and are subject to regulations about what they can do with the data.

To quote Steve Rambam from HOPE: "If you're angry about what the NSA is doing, you should be furious about what Google and Facebook are doing."

IMHO the Amazon Echo and similar beyond-Orwellian devices will someday be looked back upon with the same amount of "what were they thinking?!!?!" as stuff like: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demon_core

To continue with the nuclear analogy: I've been predicting a privacy/security "Chernobyl" event related to mobile and/or IoT for many years now. It'll be something like a corporate whistleblower revealing that a company has been running all ambient sound from all customers' houses through speech to text for over a year, then putting it all in a database and selling access more or less indiscriminately. Customers, it will come out, will include organized crime, foreign governments, etc., and some of the data will turn out to be from the homes of US Government Secret and Top Secret clearance employees, CXO level corporate personnel, police, etc. Only a matter of time. I'm counting the days.

If you give me a deadline and a list of companies, I am willing to bet money against this.

A list would be tough. I'd personally bet on a Chinese vendor or a perhaps yet to be born startup with explosive growth on a trendy home automation product.

I'd say by 2020 or so there will be a major well publicized leak or scandal from such a vendor.

It'd be hard to place a bet though, since it'd be hard to decide if/when a bet were actually won.

Before 1 January 2020. Company will be a recent entrant into the fortune 1000. By recent, I mean not in the Fortune 1000 as of 1 January 2010. $1 says it happens. If 100 people bet against me, I pay out 1 cent to each. If more than 100 bet against me and win, I pay a cent to first 100.

I'm not sure how other lines of betting work, but interested in proposals.

Thanks. That's too general for me. I would bet if you gave me a smaller list of companies (eg Google, Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft), and a more specific list of incidents.

And, of course, we would have to agree on odds. Eg, if you are really sure you could offer to pay me 5 USD if your prediction comes true, but I'd only have to pay 1 USD otherwise. (Or if I feel more sure, I could offer eg to pay 7 USD for every 4 USD you wager.)

So now Google is part of the military-industrial complex in more ways than one.

Indeed. This was the big lesson from the MS Antitrust lawsuit. In comparison to the kind of entrenched, wasteful lobbying going on today, Microsoft in its heyday was naively pursuing market dominance and utterly overlooked the need to cozy up to officials.

While corruption won't be good, the rational might be Schmidt is a "lesser evil". Is corruption preferable to ignorance? In other words, are decisions made to serve a few, or with ignorance, serve chaos.

More than corruption, my concerns would be respect and understanding of privacy, checks and balances through neutrality, transparency, and decentralization, and creation of open standards and protocols, etc.

Schmidt is a technocrat-for-hire. He is able to effectively lead and represent an organization's views. However his worldview is out of the industrial age. He was largely responsible for building Alphabet, a modern IT conglomerate built on the same principles as any conglomerate. We need to demand more from our government than competent technocrats.

I would not say Schmidt is corrupt, he is acting fully in the interest of his firm or organization. Like a defense attorney helping a murderer avoid jail his actions are broadly ethical, but if you consider in aggregate all of the betrayals of "don't be evil" that Google suffered under his command, it's clear that he is not in any sense a leader in any area where values or principles are important.

Net Neutrality is a perfect example of an issue where Google has a big stake in a particular outcome, and there is nothing idealistic or principled about its advocacy of one side. This is fine as an aspect of the incentives of capitalism, but the scary part is that so many people bought into the propaganda and did not see Google's true motivation.

I mainly remember him for saying this:

“If you have something that you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place.”

Because we all know that popular opinion is always right.

To the down voters: Your sarcasm and irony sensors may be due for a tune-up.

Because you got nothing to hide! Right?



Everybody has something to hide. It's called privacy.

People did not get my sarcasm. That was my whole point.

I think that quality was probably THE reason why he was hired for such a position. Hypthetically:

Pentagon builds some massive surveillance program for US government which is blatantly illegal and in violation of constitution. You need someone who can get it done without leading a paper trail, help friends in government and then lie when confronted. Eric clearly has all those qualities.

Pixar CEO Ed Catmull was a huge inspiration to me, and it was disappointing that he also participated in the collusion.

His book on the Pixar team has a lot of useful info, but it's interesting to read it knowing about the collusion to depress salaries.

All I can say is humans are good at compartmentalization. Once some tactic becomes commonplace in an industry, insiders don't even consider it shady any more.

We all need to get paid, and as long as we're not the worst offenders, then at least we're not as bad as those other guys, right?

Not that I am ok with it, but the collusion is a double edged sword. Let me explain myself: On one hand it is bad that the employee gets less than the market and the company is willing to pay. And that should absolutely be corrected somehow. On the other hand, now that the salaries have exploded in SV, you can see the transfer happening towards the real estate owners. I can bet on it, that if the salaries go down, the real estate in SV/SF will take a hit. So. the business owner has to face this: if I let the salaries go up, then it will be difficult to bring in entry level people since they won't be able to enter the market. And they'll have to go with shared apartments and other similar arrangements, which is untenable in the long run. Plus, it is not sure the employee will be able to retain much of that salary increase.

I know, it sounds paternalistic for the employer to think this and maybe it is better to let the market settle the current salaries/living costs tussle. But my argument is that maybe Catmull had other considerations aside from the business bottom line. The employee pipeline is actually more important.

Silicon Valley has to take a lead when it comes to working remotely. At the very least, let the well paid people work from a list of co-working spaces around the country or something if renting an office in Portland, Oregon or New York, NY is a problem and you won't have people working from home.

Yes, this. Which startup ought to be spending millions just maintaining a hip SF office instead of executing their plan, hiring good people, and making product? Of all industries, you'd think this one would have shed the old school, suit and tie, butt-in-chair HR mentality?

Perhaps they might need one or two people in SV to be in contact with VC people or something. I've never worked in a startup and so I can't tell you about the dreaded f word that ends in ing (funding). But should everyone be in SV?

BTW, how does one go about finding a developer job (not a senior role, have work experience in .NET but I'm willing to do something new) in New York City? I feel like I don't have the connections I need to land a job here. I have a BS in Mathematics and a BS in Computer Science if that helps.

The monthly 'Who's Hiring' thread from yesterday could be a good place to start, especially if you're interested in trying out a startup job.

[1] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=11202954

Thanks but I'm not qualified for anything in NYC ... At least from the responses I've gotten so far

If you read Eric Schmidts book "How Google Works" one of the main tenets is you need people working together in one physical location.

> the business owner has to face this: if I let the salaries go up, then it will be difficult to bring in entry level people since they won't be able to enter the market

Get real, no one was thinking that way.

I was tech designer for the Letterman Digital arts center in Presidio...

Lucas' companies were all merging to one campus.

They later came to me to talk about setting up a design studio in Singapore... the quote from the CIO to me at the time was "Why pay these prima donna salaries for animators here in the states when I can get animators in singapore for $20K per year?"

Yup, I want a make art button too.

Globalization is coming for all of our jobs. If we can just make it so that AI gets our jobs first, then maybe the AI will take care of us, 'cause the market sure won't.

> If we can just make it so that AI gets our jobs first, then maybe the AI will take care of us

That's not how 'Capitalism' (as currently practised) works - the owners of the AI reap the benefits and avoid paying taxes while certainly not taking care of you, why would Walmart AI or Disney AI care about plebs like you?

> Globalization is coming for all of our jobs

As a 3rd worlder, I say it's about time. It's unjust to have the world as your market without having to compete against everyone else. Maybe you should hire whoever is lobbying for American farmers because their subsidies are destroying farming elsewhere.

> That's not how 'Capitalism' (as currently practised) works - the owners of the AI reap the benefits and avoid paying taxes while certainly not taking care of you, why would Walmart AI or Disney AI care about plebs like you?

JabaAI would take care of the plebs. JabaAI loves plebs. I mean wonderful, wonderful people. JabaAI loves them. And everyone loves JabaAI. Because JabaAI is worth a lot of money. JabaAI is success. I hear it every day: "JabaAI, we love you."

In general, Singapore has some of the highest salaries worldwide.

This was in 2003 or 2004

Even back then, Singapore was pretty rich in general.

Of course, animators can still be cheaper than in the America.

Wow, even if it was only 15k developers (which it wasn't) that is still very bad. Does he have to screw over 1 million people? 1 billion people? Seems like a very low bar we're setting here.

Imagine a company has a policy that says "we wont hire black people". Does the number really matter whether 1 person was turned down or 20k ?

Google discriminating against a person for their past employment without being upfront about is pure evil.

I think this is just a stepping stone for Eric until he head's the Trump Admin's Trust and Safety Council. After all, if you're a good person you have nothing to fear

Aha! So maybe Trump does have a way to turn off the internet!

he probably has someone unplug his router.

more recently didn't he lobbied for drone laws two years ago after he saw one flying near his property?

> Guy who colluded with other high level corporate officers (see techtopus)

Okay, but I don't see what an e-commerce long-term strategic partner has to do with salary-fixing...

I wonder if it would have been possible for Eric Schmidt to report it.

Could it be as simple as the tech giants didn't want a wage war whereby the highest payer would simply monopolize the talent market?

Of course that's their incentive. And because it benefits a few and distorts the market, collusion was made against the law.

So manipulating the market to artificially keep salaries low? Can you see the problem/illegality here?

It's silly how people view this situation here. If one company has the resources to manipulate the market, they will do so outside the talent pool. Apple could buy up most patents and restrict anybody from using them. THEN, you would see the problem. But when it's human resource, you want the free market to be free.

But you have to be morally corrupt to hold a position like this.

If you're against hiring public officers and advisers based on moral turpitude, there'd be a non-existent stack left to hire from.

Is this actually true? Are you saying that every person in the world is morally bankrupt?

We hire corrupt officials because people allow it. I fail to see what this defeatist attitude solves.

Apathy is the enemy of democracy.

"I do not believe with the Rochefoucaults and the Montaignes that fourteen out of fifteen men are rogues. I believe a great abatement from that proportion may be made in favor of general honesty. But I have always found that rogues would be uppermost, and I do not know that the proportion is too strong for the higher orders and for those who, rising above the swinish multitude, always contrive to nestle themselves into the places of power and profit. These rogues set out with stealing the people's good opinion, and then steal from them the right of withdrawing it, by contriving laws and associations against the power of the people themselves."

--Thomas Jefferson to Mann Page, 1795. ME 9:306

American government was intended to be limited. That would limit the number of people, and the power that they have in government.

Today, our government is huge, and has a lot of power. This means that often times the people that get into government aren't doing it as a servant to the people, but instead as a service to themselves.

We need more servants. Viewing this reality and calling it Apathy or not Apathy is a perspective. We are all free to our perspective, and I think the wider variety, the better.

I think that his accomplishments may outweigh that transgression, which likely affected 15,000 software developers at most. He did manage to help vastly increase Google employees' personal wealth through a meteoric rise in their stock value.

In this case, it's probably best to match the malfeasance with the risk. What do you think he is likely to harm within government program management?

Edit: my original estimate of 15k was way off base. A subsequent poster has suggested it was a minimum of 64,000, probably substantially more.

I would say it affected an entire industry. If the salaries have a certain value in SV then everybody else will use those as a signal and adjust their offers accordingly.

edit: not really difficult to do, you can compare the salaries per region (averages, median and distributions) pre and post lawsuit.

It's fine to say that, but finding actual data to support that hypothesis is awfully difficult.

> which likely affected 15,000 software developers at most

Where does this number come from? When the wage fixing agreement was canceled, Google immediately issued an across the board raise, and compensation has increase very quickly since then. That's 15k software devs right there, not even considering the second-order effects, which are surely non-zero.

I made a rough tally of the developers employed by the companies involved in the conspiracy at that time. What do you think is a more accurate count?

Can you discuss the second-order effects? They're not apparent to me.

Edit: HN isn't allowing me to reply to you. Thanks for correcting my estimate. I was way off.

15k barely covers the engineers employed by Google alone at the time. The class action lawsuit covers 64k employees, and that's a subset of the employees affected. If your argument is that Eric Schmidt's entering in the agreement only affected employees at Google, that's clearly false. A single company no-poach agreement would clearly be worthless, so it must be the case that Eric Schmidt's actions affected employees at other companies. If you believe some of the latest news, the agreement spread to enough companies that 1M employees were directly affected: https://pando.com/2014/03/22/revealed-apple-and-googles-wage.... Schmidt and Jobs were central in creating the agreement and its spread.

As for the second order effects, do you know a hiring manager? Ask them about how competitive offers have changed since the no-poach agreement was canceled. The effect is much larger than just having to keep up with the across the board raise Google gave to their employees when the agreement expired, which was itself non-trivial.

Right. I'm sure that he knew better than they did, it was fine for him to limit their choices through collusion as long as he also took actions which helped some of them a little and himself a lot.

When your costs don't increase in line with profits then share price rises. The easiest way to do this is wages. In the 1980s it was through massive layoffs.

I was under the impression this agreement, at least initially, was to prevent anticompetitive poaching.

Suppose Apple wants to dominate search. One way to do so is to poach every Google search engineer by offering to triple their salaries. These companies agreed not to do that.

Yeah, it's illegal, but what options did these executive have? California effectively bans noncompete clauses. And there's enough money in the system and teams are typically small enough that dismantling a competitor is feasible.

Google Engineer Sarah shouldn't be paid triple Google Engineer Jessie just because she works on a product that's valuable to Competitor X.

Edit: original post not clear enough. Reproducing a reply below:

>The problem was with using money to prevent your competitors from doing business. Doing so subverts the free market.

Suppose every time a competitor rented office space, you bought the building and evicted them.

Suppose Walmart opens a store in SoMa that sells groceries at a tenth of what surrounding stores sell, then jacks prices when those stores fold.

To ELI5: you run a lemonade stand. Your neighbor Susie also has a lemonade stand. Susie's mom doesn't like your parents and wants you to fail, so she pays the store $500 to not sell you lemonades. Yeah, the market price of exclusive lemonade rights is now $500, but unreasonable sums are being spent to prevent competition. Something's wrong.

There are laws against most anticompetitive practices, but not all.

Part of the motivation behind the poaching agreement was filling a gap. You could dismantle a competitor by paying everyone and anyone in their product's critical path to simply not work there anymore.

The solution, an antipoaching agreement, was illegal.

> Google Engineer Sarah shouldn't be paid triple Google Engineer Jessie just because she works on a product that's valuable to Competitor X.

If they want to keep the employee, they absolutely need to match what others are willing to pay. That you suggest otherwise is nonsense in the american job market.

Cheating to get a better price is as you acknowledged, illegal, and most of the time you will find the market begins to even out those weird bumps by creating incentives for others to learn/work on that skillset (because of the higher rewards.)

This is very equivalent to "Well why should we pay engineer X more when they are working the same number of hours as marketing person Y?"

Its a comparison that doesn't make sense unless you want to pretend that the employer does not benefit as a result of the value the employee produces.

If the engineer is 3x more valuable to the other company and not to your bottom line, its an obvious time for that engineer to move, not be made a slave by anti-competitive agreements between employers.

Hopefully you will be able to find someone to work on your product at a price point that your business can derive some value from, but if not, its probable that your business sucks.

I agree it's wrong. I was just elaborating on the reasons it happened, as I haven't seen it explained in press and I know people who were affected in 2005 when this started.

Let me get this straight. CEO Schmidt gets payed 100x more than both Google Engineer Sarah and Google Engineer Jessie just because he gets to manipulate their salaries.

I think that's a straw man. Buying out a competitor's employees en masse is an anticompetitive tactic that, if used widely, arguably may negatively affect the health of the industry as a whole.

Not saying these executives' actions were right. Just that there were considerations other than saving a buck on salaries.

> Buying out a competitor's employees en masse is an anticompetitive tactic

can you provide me an example of when this has ever occurred or are you just speaking of hypotheticals?

I'm skeptical. convince me that it is even possible to poach employees en masse.

> Google Engineer Sarah shouldn't be paid triple Google Engineer Jessie just because she works on a product that's valuable to Competitor X.

So, instead of a Demand-Supply based free market for jobs, you want the same wages for everyone?

I’m sorry, but even for me as a left-leaning european that’s too socialistic.

Hmm, I don't think the original post was clear enough.

The problem was with using money to prevent your competitors from doing business. Doing so subverts the free market.

Suppose every time a competitor rented office space, you bought the building and evicted them.

Suppose Walmart opens a store in SoMa that sells groceries at a tenth of what surrounding stores sell, then jacks prices when those stores fold.

To ELI5: you run a lemonade stand. Your neighbor Susie also has a lemonade stand. Susie's mom doesn't like your parents and wants you to fail, so she pays the store $500 to not sell you lemonades. Yeah, the market price of exclusive lemonade rights is now $500, but unreasonable sums are being spent to prevent competition. Something's wrong.

There are laws against most anticompetitive practices, but not all. Part of the motivation behind the poaching agreement was filling a gap. This was illegal.

Extending your logic, suppose one company spends a hundred million on online marketing and you can spend $80. Guess who goes out of business first? More money wins over less money. There is no way to get around that without fundamentally altering the economic model.

There are 100 stores on a 20 miles radius. Surely Susie's mom has better things to do than to spend $50,000 and untold time to convince the managers of every single store in the metro to not sell lemons to u/peyton.

There's no such thing as "anticompetitive poaching". Not recruiting the best people you can is anti-competitive

> anticompetitive poaching.

thats an oxymoron. poaching talent IS competition between companies.

Assange's "When Google met Wikileaks" comes to mind... https://wikileaks.org/google-is-not-what-it-seems/

(strong downvotes here) But Google uses HTTPS... Joking aside, Google is seriously helping to advance computer security as a whole (just take a look at their security blog). Obviously, it is not a good idea to have your private life in the cloud.

Joking aside #2: could a private company like Google be acquired by US as a key security asset? It seems possible, I found this https://www.quora.com/Can-the-US-government-acquire-private-... helpful.

I'm a bit mystified by the downvotes. During previous wars, the US did in fact compel industry to retool for wartime needs. And not in arm's-length transactions, but by fiat and in many cases at enforced price levels. e.g., during WWII domestic civilian auto and airplane construction was completely diverted to military needs. In a global war, I think it is actually quite likely that the same thing would happen with each combatant's civilian tech industry.

In a new world war, assuming no nuclear wipe-out scenario, Google would indeed be drafted. Their effectiveness as a global entity would collapse rapidly however, as the global internet would be destroyed as a first stage target. Google would lose the vast benefits it has on global information, tracking, etc. Mostly what Google would be drafted for then, would be the sheer engineering talent - basically the government would want their skill, not Google itself per se. In the case of WW2, the government wanted the steel output and labor.

"Google uses HTTPS...Google is seriously helping to advance computer security as a whole"

I've always felt that Google sees privacy solely or largely through the lens of security. You can't have privacy without security, but privacy is more than just security. Online, it's about being tracked in the first place.

Google may have the best encryption and the most secure data storage, but that security and encryption doesn't stop Google from voraciously tracking and recording as much of your online behaviour as they can.

Google has it's digital fingerprints in every corner of the web: from analytics to CDNs, to online accounts that sync your activity on mobile, desktop, tablet, TV and no-doubt more gadgets in the future. They have an entire cloud-based OS that requires immediate sign-in on start-up (and which is heavily promoted in schools).

The amount of data they capture (much of it not even anonymous) is truly staggering. And yet on matters of privacy, they get a completely free ride from the tech community.

They don't get a free ride. Here on HN some of us call it out all the time. We just get downvoted to oblivion by all the google cube dwellers.

In the land of the open office, there's no more cube dwellers.

(strong downvotes here)

You really ought to look into the early history of Google (particularly the Stanford years) before disregarding this point. If you're not an Assange fan, that's OK (I'm not either) -- but other people have done some pretty good research on this.

It's all there, if you want to find it. I'm sure you know how.

Didn't the first version of Google emerge from a DARPA grant?

Pretty much, as I recall. But the connections went much deeper than just pulling down DARPA money.


> Obviously, it is not a good idea to have your private life in the cloud.

That may be obvious to you, but it isn't to most people. Even most people who are uncomfortable with having their "private life in the cloud" make compromises and have large parts of it there.

Short answer: Yes. It is exceedingly unlikely, however.

The Federal government can seize control of private companies through one of two mechanisms:

1. Seize ownership of Google and pay market value (the Takings Clause allows the government to seize private property so long as there is "just compensation.")

2. Declare war, and essentially draft Google's workers into wartime production. This was done extensively during WWII.

For example, Ford motor company only built about 200 automobiles for private use during the entire course of the war because their assembly lines were devoted nearly entirely to wartime production.

I am not sure how is this related to what Assange said. Eric Smith is famous about not respecting privacy of ordinary citizens.


> Google is seriously helping to advance computer security as a whole (just take a look at their security blog).

I've always seen "Project Zero" and such as a smart PR move: hire some security folks, pay them to break other people's software, publish the results. Improving computer security would be an accidental side-effect.

In general the only reason you can nationalize someone else's stuff is because you have the guns.

In the latter half of the 21st century, the robots and the AI will be "the guns".

Who has the AI?

Do you have a mobile phone?

Yes, but it does not contain sensitive information.

Having a mobile number by itself is a privacy risk. See the following video:


Can you expand? I cannot imagine what you do with your phone in order not to have sensitive info on it.

At the very least your approximate location and people you talk to is definitely in there.

That approximate location is not on the phone (but in the cell tower your phone currently sees as closest, you can query that but you don't have to and it is not something a party on the other side of a data connection can normally query) and who you talk to does not have to be in there either, it's up to you to populate your address book and to keep your history.

> That approximate location is not on the phone

It is on any smart phone with GPS, or at least, one should assume it is.

> who you talk to does not have to be in there either

Really? If the number is there does it matter if the name isn't in your address book? I'm fairly tech savvy and how much confidence do I really have that clearing my call history actually removes it from the phone all together?

> It is on any smart phone with GPS, or at least, one should assume it is.

Not on mine.

> Really? If the number is there does it matter if the name isn't in your address book? I'm fairly tech savvy and how much confidence do I really have that clearing my call history actually removes it from the phone all together?

You don't need any confidence because it is safe to assume you've given those numbers to the phone company (and by extension the secret service of your own country and probably in some back room deal to the United States and from there to the other five eyes countries).

So you're paranoid about the wrong thing. Your cellphone 'knows where it is' but so do you and anybody looking at your cellphone, that's not exactly secret information. Where it was may be a different story. And where it is is interesting information when looking from the providers side into the network.

Do you not have GPS on your phone or do you have it but know that it never saves your location history? If the latter, how do you know?

I do not have GPS on my phone and that's a conscious choice.

Gotcha, that makes sense. I'm not sure it is possible to have it and know that your info is private, which I'm assuming you feel as well given you don't have it. I have it for the benefits and accept that my info probably isn't private.

Sensitive data is data I don't want to share, like private notes, private source code, or private photos. These are not there. I don't carry a mobile phone if I care about my location.

Yeah, but it's broadcasting useful metadata like crazy.

Your mobile is a huge security risk should you have any reason to not want to be compromised (or even, in some cases if you don't). It can be used to eavesdrop, track your location, track who you meet with, who you talk to, why you meet and talk with these people, who you are close to, who your relatives are and if it's a smartphone, what your personality is, what your interests are, what you are thinking about at any given time etc etc.

This comes on the heels of Schmidt's most recent email innovation, as published by Time [1]:

> If you get something you think you may want to recall later, forward it to yourself along with a few keywords that describe its content.

> This isn’t just handy for emails, but important documents too. Jonathan scans his family’s passports, licenses, and health insurance cards and emails them to himself along with descriptive keywords.

This is so horrible and wrong - and now he holes himself up in a make-believe position at the Pentagon? Figures...

[1] http://time.com/3425368/google-email-rules/?xid=time_socialf...


"If you have private data, please put it on our servers so we can add it to our internal profile we have on you."

This is surreal.

Do people really believe this?

Some believe it's intentional.

I believe it's unintentional, but that the result is eventually very similar, if not the same.

The gallery ("See Inside Google's New York City Office") in that article is hilarious.

Conference rooms with themes such as "Subway" (featuring subway map wallpaper and a decorative pipe), "Apartment" (wacky furniture and wallstickers with household appliances, 'for those looking to “work from home” at work') and "Broadway" (red carpet, red curtains, lots of velvet).

Build-your-own desks, with as much customisation as you can do in your 2 m2 cubicle. A steel slide connecting the two lounge levels!

And, my favorite: 'A green themed micro kitchen emphasizes Google's commitment to sustainability.'

Nothing says "commitment to sustainability" to me more than green paint, and a kitchen stool with a segment from a tree trunk glued onto the top.

The top-hat chandeliers in the "library", along with the faux-necktie armchair ornaments, are another clownish touch.

"If you have something that you don't want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn't be doing it in the first place."

I remember when that happened. I will never defend that silly argument, but I do think this was taken out of context. Wasn't he specifically trying to say: if you're going to commit a crime, don't tell Google about it, because then Google will be compelled to help the authorities? So from his perspective, he's frustrated that people expect Google to ignore it when you're doing illegal things and also telling Google about it.

Eric Schmidt has a way with words in that he always says the wrong thing - sometimes you can see what he was trying to say, and there might be something good there - but whenever he talks he just fumbles and ruins everything.

I can follow what you're describing and I think it does have some context possibility.

As in, if a person is being investigated for a kidnapping, murder, and disposal of a body and their computer search history has numerous queries for "How to dispose of a body" and "How to clean blood out of the trunk of a Honda" then the self-exposure is really the incriminating factor, not the device or platform used to disclose such things.

The problem is Google cannot have it both ways. They like to act like the data you generate on Google is private only to you, and that Google employees can't see it, and that you're not "telling" anyone, as far as they're concerned.

But you are, because they can and do access that data. And pass it on to the relevant authorities.

In the large, for most people, those assertions are true. It turns out that there's a wide gulf between "Can" and "do" that a fair risk assessment will, for many people, indicate is a useful place to be.

Entire companies are built and thrive in the gap between "can" and "do" on the Internet.

The combination of personal profiles on everybody (Google), soon a massive AI engine (Google) and the military-industrial complex gives me some serious chills.

Don't worry, the massive AI engine will be garbage (but seriously I agree).

Hey, at least if Earth ever needs to fight real-life Space Invaders, Google's AI armed with the Pentagon's hardware should do well!

Only if it has a few thousand planets to sacrifice while it learns.


You mean space invaders in real life wouldn't behave in the same way as space invaders in the game that DeepMind has mastered? Fancy that. Could this generalize to other areas where AI works on toy examples but fails in the real world?!

You worry too much. President Trump will be a wise steward of his new security apparatus.

All of his actions lead me to think he's considering a run for the presidency one of these days. Maybe 2024 after Hillary. They're quite aligned and he'd be a natural Democrat successor.

Like Hilary, he seems to have a fascination with Kissinger. Kissinger has been invited to Google for interviews with Schmidt several times, much to the chagrin of a large # of Google employees.



How many corporate Democratic presidents can the US population withstand?

all of them apparently

I've said long ago that Google at one point became a new R&D branch of the US military.

Just like every single, large technology company (yes even Apple) Google participates in plenty of contract work for the DoD. I wouldn't call it an R&D branch though but technically some contracts could be R&D.

Edit: not sure why I'm being downvoted; I worked in that space for 5 years. I've worked with many of the cleared employees of these companies on various projects. It's not a big secret or anything...

You're saying something nobody wants to hear.

An interesting point I'm noticing is that almost every time I start to get downvoted for something that is correct and I am able to edit my post to ask why I'm getting downvoted I have observed that:

On HN: my original comment is almost always resurrected and eventually positive upvotes.

On Reddit: my original comment is buried even faster.

I should test using some controls (maybe post something incorrect) to see if the trend continues. My hypothesis is that HN is just a smaller, more niche and possibly better education group due to the content versus reddit.

Google _does_ own Boston Dynamics....

Which isn't focusing on military contracts any longer as part of their buy-out. Does no one actually read anything before they make comments like this?

Best link I could find on short notice: http://www.extremetech.com/extreme/185570-google-finally-pro...

Every large corporation eventually starts sucking the tit of the state. Did you know Disney runs an intelligence service for various government outfits?

> Every large corporation eventually starts sucking the tit of the state.

Every corporation is ab initio a creature of the state.


I've always been fascinated with how the smartest people end up doing the stupidest things.

Only after opening the next pandora's box do they realize how stupid it was to try to open it in the first place, but it is too late by then.


But we never learn, do we...

What good can potentially come out of a high tech, nuclear, AI-driven military force, ran like a software company is beyond me..

The only thing we learn from history, Hegel once said, is that we learn nothing from history.

well, that's something ;)

Julian Assange met with Schmidt and his entourage at the Ecuadorian embassy in London, and afterwards put his thoughts into an article:


He basically claimed that Google is an arm of the US State Department.

That Google has relationships with In-Q-Tel - the CIA's venture capital arm - is fairly well known e.g. http://www.wired.com/2010/07/exclusive-google-cia/

That doesn't need to mean there's anything murky going on or that Google is an arm of the US state department. Government invests in technology; that's how the Internet started

Did you even read the article? In-Q-Tel and their investment isn't even mentioned. He cites dozens of other reasons.

But since you brought it up, why do you think the CIA would invest in a tech company?

geo-political crap, few are equipped to discuss this, but it deserves to be up there

That to me sounds like the worst job, from the start he's an outsider trying introduce massive change, but in an advisory role.

Schmidt seems a bit like Bloomberg in that his main interest, now that he has amassed wealth and power, is to use it to hang out with powerful people, more than accomplish anything in particular with them.

(For Bloomberg, it was an obsession with becoming British aristocracy)

Bloomberg was probably the most effective mayor in modern NYC history, and spearheaded the creation of Silicon Alley as well as modern LIC, Williamsburg, and Dumbo.

He's a lot more than the "soda ban guy" here.

i would credit private industry for those private endeavours. hes "stop and frisk" guy to me. pure authoritarian.

From the NYT, May, 2002: "A gasp could be heard two months ago in Williamsburg, home to many gaunt people in tight clothes, when a Bedford Avenue storefront that had long housed the local art supply store reopened as Sam & Seb, the neighborhood's first baby store."

It's a real stretch to suggest Bloomberg is somehow responsible for Williamsburg given the artsification -> gentrification was well under way by the time he was elected in 2001.

mixed legacy. undoubtedly he was an unusually competent technocratic manager.

he (via his command of the NYPD) was also a serial violator of civil liberties, particularly of minority communities. he also was directly involved in the "aristocratization" of many parts of Manhattan and Brooklyn and presided over what has gone on to become a major housing affordability crisis in the city.

It's low risk. Not being able to change the Pentagon from a purely advisory role isn't a real terrible thing for a billionaire's resume.

The DoD has a surprisingly positive history with having outsiders on influential boards like this. I say this from experience: I've served on a few. The DoD knows that it needs ideas that come from outside, and so it runs a variety of external advisory boards. Some of this helps, e.g., DARPA explore very-early-stage research options. And in my experience, they tend to listen.

Schmidt knows what he's doing in this context. He already serves as one of the members of PCAST https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_President%27s_Co... , which exists to advise the President in a non-partisan way on matters of science and technology. The members of PCAST have serious chops, and serve a very useful function in helping get sane science and technology policies formulated.

(And I use the phrase "serves" very carefully: This is not a path to fame and power; chairing PCAST working groups is a pretty non-trivial amount of work, for no real reward. Most of the people I know who've been involved in the process do it because they feel like it's a way to have a positive impact in the U.S. and in their fields.)

He's not an outsider.

DoD needs the help. I wish him the best of luck.

Having said that, I'd much rather read something like "Google's Schmidt to head up program X for DoD"

Yes, I understand that his unique talents are needed at the top, but frankly you can't top-down optimize something that isn't working in the first place. My preference is to get multiple large programs that serve as an example (and no, the ACA site does not qualify as a large program, at least it shouldn't) and then work on optimizing the system. The way things are, I'm kinda left wondering exactly what he expects to accomplish and exactly how he's going to know that he's accomplished it. "Advisory boards" are the kiss of death in D.C.

Could be a prelude for more political activity. In that case, it'd make sense. He'd be a very interesting SecDef.

It was his fault that Google killed XMPP efforts and didn't open Hangouts. It had a direct impact on cutting off the majority of my contact list. That's not the kind of "innovation" that we needed. So I don't trust him to make good choices.

As Schmidt has vested interests and personal relationships with the Pentagon, will the public trust him with their security in regard to government intrusion? Should they? Contrast this with Apple's current public relationship with government.

These public activities may not be representative of what really is happening, but trust is all the public can rely on. Very few can understand the techical issues, and very few of those people have access to the information and the time to analyzse it.

However, I'm glad the Pentagon is getting the best help available; the U.S. falling behind in military technology could be an historic catastrophe. Let's not take democracy, liberty, and all their benefits for granted.

You seem to take for granted that technology will never be used against citizens.

I worry about that, but I don't see an alternative other than to mitigate that risk, via law and policy, as much as possible.

It's an appropriate job. Schmidt has always had a more "traditional" relationship to and attitude about government programs in general, long before government surveillance became a hot topic. Sun was a big supplier to the DoD. Schmidt is, despite his occasional odd outbursts of context-free candor, one of the smartest people in the tech industry, and will certainly be one of the people most in tune with what's technically possible and what's reasonable to implement to serve on that board.

Whether you think he's not right for the job or not, there has to be some interaction between the private sector and military to debate the best routes for security and innovation. There's not many people who have the experience and know-how as Schimdt, with the other option is the military be completed segregated from the public and completely fall behind. This board will probably be a gold mine for the public sector, because they need some serious help.

Why not call him "Chairman" rather than "Former CEO"...?

More people probably know what CEO means.

Perhaps, but the fact that he's still currently part of Google leadership is far more relevant.

Because the fix is in.

People downvoting me–you have a media company which has demonstrable statist bias, crafting a headline that downplays the Military-Corporate Complex aspect of a story that couldn't possibly be any more of a smoking gun.

The chairman of Google–a company which enjoys more Presidential access than any other single company–chairing a board at the Pentagon.

Hence: the fix is in, something which should shock no one by this point.

There are so many places where effeciency could be improved in governments (healthcare, democracy, transportation, monetary system, law, taxation), and I'm sure Eric Schmidt can do the job by bringing in high-tech culture....still, military is the last place where I would like improvements to be seen.

This puts the acquisition of BostonDynamics in a new light. They weren't the peaceful people snatching them for civilian use. They were a shill for the military; hiding them inside of something less violent seeming to keep the heat away.

> Pentagon advisory board aimed at bringing Silicon Valley innovation and best practices to the U.S. military

snark: The US military already know how to move fast and break things.

DARPA and the Pentagon have done a tremendous amount to move technology forward, over the decades. But, I personally would feel more comfortable if it were a non-military organization that were in the lead role. Technology should be a means to improve humanity and decrease human suffering. What the Pentagon wants out of technology, at least in a proximate sense, is something completely different.

Defense Innovation Advisory Board AND The Groundwork (Hillary campaign)? We really have to have one person heading both of those, and have him CEO in charge of determining what people get to look at?

I feel a great disturbance in the force..

I believe big corporations like Google or Apple serve a balance role with the Government; under that assumption serving a position on both sides would represent a conflict of interests.

Easy on the innovation there Eric. Just help them figure out how to keep a government server from being hacked every 2 hours.

do no evil. muah ha ha ha ha ha!

They have replaced that motto. Which, I suppose, means that they can feel better about themselves now. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Don't_be_evil)

Revolving door?

PR stunt

"Members will draw on their experience in Silicon Valley to advise on rapid prototyping, iterative product development, complex data analysis, the use of mobile and cloud applications and organizational information sharing."

So, what the Pentagon's R&D processes can learn from SV.

being evil, it's more of a calling than a job.

People may not want to hear it, but by definition we are devolving into fascism as corporate and government interests become increasingly incestuous.

Even if this was corporatism (which it might be, but corporatism is more complex than that), not all corporatism is fascism -- Mussolini has a quote equating them, but that was trying to piggy-back fascism on corporatism, which had been supported in many non-fascist forms by many institutions (notably, the Catholic Church) long before fascism exist.

Fascism combines corporatism with militaristic nationalism and other features.

Mere business-government entanglement, even when it becomes corporatism, is not sufficient for fascism.

To head the Skynet development team.

Yet another Googler infiltrating our government. Obama's administration has repeatedly positioned Googlers in every open position with any technology relation whatsoever. It's a staggering example of government corruption at work, especially coupled with their continual immunity from legal repercussions for their actions in this country.


After working many years in the DoD contracting space bringing in almost anyone from silicon valley who actually knows how technology works should be an improvement from the terrible state it's in now.

Why is it corruption when the government tries to get top quality employees to work within their ranks?

Eric Schmidt's wealth is heavily tied to Google's stock, and he's effectively Google's evangelist who they send to government (ours and others) to convince them to do what Google wants them to. (Usually to pass laws helping Google do business, or to avoid punishment for Google's privacy or tax violations.)

It's impossible for him to put the interests of the citizens of our country above his allegiance to Google. This is much like when a government position at the FCC is filled by a Comcast or Time Warner employee or something. The conflict of interest here is amazing.

That's a bit different than your previous post. You simply said Googler's in general which there is nothing wrong with that. Now if they currently have a stake in the company AND are working for the government? Yeah I agree with you.

Though I'm not going to lie it still may be better than the current situation. I can't tell you how many times you hear "yeah setup a shell corporation and do this and that and get rich on government contracts". Maybe it's just replacing one corruption for another...

And just like that, out of nowhere, a year later the Pentagon starts buying Google's Atlas robots.

Boston Dynamics was a defense contractor before Google bought them. Despite what was said at the time of the purchase, the continuation that business relationship should be the expectation.

Well that's a pretty dumb move for Google PR and their shareholders.

Hard for foreign business to take you seriously on having their back when the US government comes knocking when the CEO is running projects at the Pentagon.

Sundar Pichai is CEO, not Schmidt. Although he is still Chairman.

That's their former CEO, not the current one. At least as far as I know.

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