Hacker News new | comments | show | ask | jobs | submit login
Daring Fireball: Creep Executive Officer (daringfireball.net)
239 points by barredo 2195 days ago | hide | past | web | 155 comments | favorite

He's not creepy, just honest. He knows in the future what we call "privacy" won't exist anymore. Every new innovation gets regulated by the government so that politicians get their cut. Right now we're seeing them redefine "privacy" to mean privacy from anyone other than this corporate/government partnership knowing everything about you. This is what he's talking about -- and it IS inevitable.

Here's the real privacy question: will you be able to keep other PEOPLE from knowing everything about you? I've contributed recently to speakerwiki.org -- they are building a massive database of every public/tech/motivational speaker in the world. Rated and Ranked. So what happens when everyone has a Yelp profile that they don't control? Or do corporate/political interests prevent this from ever happening to control their monopoly on data? To me that's the real privacy question for the next 5-10 years.

On second thought, he is pretty creepy.

He's not creepy, just honest

There's a certain branch of honesty that's intensely creepy. It happens when someone is oblivious to the emotions of the people around them, and it's generally characterized by consistently being far too blunt, or dismissively laughing at something that frightens everybody else. Communication is as much about the emotion conveyed as the actual words. If Schmidt thinks it's just a matter of time before it will be the norm to ditch your identity for fear of embarrassment, he's creepy. He's especially creepy because he's dedicated himself to creating the technology that will force temporary identities.

The following scene was described in the fortune magazine article:

“All this information that you have about us: where does it go? Who has access to that?” (Google servers and Google employees, under careful rules, Schmidt said.) “Does that scare everyone in this room?” The questioner asked, to applause. “Would you prefer someone else?” Schmidt shot back – to laughter and even greater applause. “Is there a government that you would prefer to be in charge of this?”

A room full of tech journalists cheering and applauding a tech CEO for saying that he's the best person to know everything about everyone is about as creepy as it gets. It sounds like a work of fiction deliberately crafted to be creepy. But Schmidt is insensitive to how most people feel about privacy. He just thinks he escaped a tough question with a clever one-liner.

He's especially creepy because he's dedicated himself to creating the technology that will force temporary identities.

That's it, all right.

It is one thing to recognize that, say, the extinction of the passenger pigeon is inevitable. It is quite another thing to deliberately manufacture a net and then use that net to catch the last known passenger pigeon, and then publicly cook it and eat it, all the while knowing exactly what you are doing. That would be... creepy.

The other obvious point -- or you'd think it would be obvious -- is that the fact that (e.g.) our websurfing behavior is continuously monitored, collated, and sold to the highest bidder without our specific knowledge is "inevitable" only because Google and similar businesses work to keep it that way. Google's business model is not some law of nature. Perhaps the company will discover this when some less-creepy startup company steals a significant share of their market. It could happen.

he's dedicated himself to creating the technology that will force temporary identities

It seems like we are to blame. If we were really creeped out by it we wouldn't use.

Creepy is the weirdo standing down the street looking at you funny and you just don't know what he is going to do next. With Google we know - they are going to collect every morsel of data about us that they can.

This is like saying if we were bothered by engines powered by fuels derived from oil, we would stop using them.

Google and services like it have become vital to a lot of what we do. We can be bothered by it while not having much choice but to use it. Every service collects the same data and does the same thing with it, so there isn't anywhere to go.

I'm not personally bothered by it though. I just wish Schmidt would be less Caviler when discussing the data I don't mind his company having.

This is like saying if we were bothered by engines powered by fuels derived from oil, we would stop using them.

Isn't this the case for a lot of people who drive hybrids and/or take mass-transit? You can always vote with your wallet. I can't stand what McDonalds represents, so I haven't eaten there for 15+ years and won't take my kids there.

"I'm not a monster, I'm just ahead of the curve."

The tech lobby isn't the strongest lobby in the world, but the consumer rights lobby, ACLU et al are even weaker. Given the state of congress, no way any new legislation passes, it'll be "big government usurping the market" and get filibustered or some such. Democrats won't do anything to make it happen and Republicans will outright oppose it on the off-chance that they do.

So we'll see the industry definition of acceptable creep outwards. It's driven by the fundamentals. Nobody puts vague notions of consumer privacy above feeding their kids.

EDIT: Does this have to get downmodded? Nothing in the post is controversial, and it's not exactly news that Congress has a hard time passing bills these days.

Nonsense. That's not something anyone can "know". It's something we decide. It's puzzling that anyone would take it seriously when people like Google or Facebook claim to simply adapt to inevitable societal changes when they have very clear vested interests in a particular outcome.

These changes are going to lead to huge disasters and Messrs. Schmidt and Zuckerberg will look like the bosses of Lehman and the Fed claiming that markets always price risk correctly. The privacy thing will crash badly.

As a shareholder of Google I will work towards getting Mr. Schmidt fired.

I found "I actually think most people don’t want Google to answer their questions. They want Google to tell them what they should be doing next.", a lot more creepy than the statements about privacy.

I'm not so worried about what they know about me, but I am very concerned that Schmidt thinks Google should try to tell me what to do next.

Google Maps already tells me what roads to drive on, Amazon tells me what things I should buy, and Facebook tells me who I should be friends with.

I would say I am fine with these things since I understand the nature of these algorithms, but there are some very fuzzy situations that occur.

Is there a moral dilemma for a recommendation algorithm to suggest things of political nature during an election year? i.e. recommending "Going Rogue" or "The Audacity of Hope" during in the months leading up to a presidential election?

I like your examples.

Google Maps tells me the whole route, not just 'what to do next'. I can understand how the route was produced, and because it's shown on a map, I can see whether it matches my intentions before I follow it.

Amazon is less transparent, but they usually do show things like 'we recommended this because you bought that, and 40% of people who bought that liked this"

I'd hardly say that Facebook tells me who to I should be friends with - they mostly suggest people I might already be friends with to make it easier to connect with them. I don't know what algorithm they use, but I guess it's based on mutual friends and their scrape of my email box from ages ago. I wish they would tell me more.

Google on the other hand is completely secretive about how they generate their recommendations (i.e. the search results). How do I know the results I see are aligned with my interests?

Since Google's customers are advertisers, it wouldn't be unreasonable to guess that the search results are at least to some extent tuned to maximize advertising revenue for Google, as opposed to my needs for quality, breadth of coverage, historically significant results etc.

The algorithm may not be tuned to favor specific interests, but it clearly has a structural bias that favors certain kinds of information over other kinds.

I think that having so much of the web's information flow governed by secret algorithms is very much a cause for concern.

Google isn't completely secretive. They just aren't completely open. Google's technical approach to recommendations is described in [http://ilpubs.stanford.edu:8090/422/] and if you want more recent and detailed info you can find it at [http://research.google.com/pubs/papers.html]. Or, if you want something in a more casual style, there are blogs [http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2008/10/quality-scores-and-ad...]. Or, for some insight into their business strategies [http://www.google.com/corporate/tenthings.html].

Gruber took Schmidt's quote out of WSJ context [http://online.wsj.com/article/SB1000142405274870490110457542...] before applying some sinister spin. The WSJ article conveys the idea that in the future, Google will be better at figuring out what information is relevant and unknown to you at any given moment (so much better that it can be proactive about delivering that info without annoying you).

I don't know why Gruber feels that Google is Apple's enemy, or why he's decided to attack Apple's enemies rather than praise/defend Apple's tech, products, and culture. But, many people seem to be worried about Google and not worried about Apple, despite the fact that the latter is much more secretive. I guess it's because Google seems more important, being involved with so much of "the web's information flow" and not just with making beautiful computers and accessories.

Of the references you list, only the PageRank one has anything to do with the search algorithm. It's a great paper. The backrub paper (http://infolab.stanford.edu/~backrub/google.html) is also great, and has been a personal inspiration, however that information pre-dates the founding of Google as a corporation, and the search algorithm been developed in complete secrecy for more than a decade since then.

There are more than 200 other signals used to determine relevance, and PageRank is only one of them (http://www.google.com/corporate/tech.html). The others are completely secret as far as I can tell, and there's no indication what weight is given to PageRank now.

I'm not attributing malice to the secrecy, but there's no way to know what biases are embodied in the algorithm, and I think that's a serious concern.

I don't think it's unreasonable to claim that Google is as important as the press now as a source of public information. The biases of the press are very much a concern for society, so I think we should be equally concerned about the potential for bias in the search results.

As for Gruber, my guess is that he feels that the discourse in the tech press/blogosphere has demonized Apple heavily for the closed nature of the App store, whereas Google is praised for its 'openness' with much less examination of what that really means.

Personally I think that Gruber can be childish about this, but I think both companies deserve rational criticism.

I'm more worried about Google than I am about Apple because their secrecy is about how public information is prioritized.

I do have similar concerns about how Apple prioritizes applications in the App Store, but for now that seems a lot less important than how Google prioritizes websites.

> Of the references you list, only the PageRank one has anything to do with the search algorithm.


> There are more than 200 other signals used to determine relevance, and PageRank is only one of them (http://www.google.com/corporate/tech.html). The others are completely secret as far as I can tell, and there's no indication what weight is given to PageRank now.

I gave a link to http://research.google.com/pubs/papers.html which links to http://research.google.com/pubs/InformationRetrieval.html which links to http://research.google.com/pubs/pub35599.html and http://doi.acm.org/10.1145/1571941.1572114 among many other papers that talk about signals other than link structure and means of combining signals to derive a relevance ranking.

But, sure, Google has large scope and importance, and they do have secrets (about search rankings and other topics). Policy statements and economics papers they've published about the alignment of users' interests with their own are only suggestive and don't guarantee good behavior. As long as they have secrets we can't be sure they're not doing evil (or even just failing to serve each of us as well and faithfully as possible).

Thanks for pointing out those other links. One of them is about news, and not search, but the others do shed light on algorithms that might be part of how Google does ranking.

But as we agree, the actual algorithm is secret.

Incidentally, I'm less worried about deliberate evil than I am about systematic biases that we don't know about. Here on HN people show a lot of interest in cognitive biases and the importance of being aware of them. I think the biases of the 'extra-cognitive' systems we use are just as interesting.

Is any other search engine is or was transparent about their algorithm to your liking? Bing? Yahoo? DuckDuckGo?

If google published the definitive spec of their algorithm (i.e. source code to their search engine), would you read hundreds of thousands lines of code? Would you be able to comprehend it? Would you re-read it every week to make sure that hundreds of commits made by google engineers didn't change it in a way you don't like?

It's preposterous to think that you could comprehend their algorithm in a way that allows you to make an informed decision about whether to use or not. Let's assume you understand it and don't like how it works, what you gonna do? Use Bing?

You don't need reassurance that Google's algorithm is aligned with your interests. It isn't. Neither is Bing's algorithm or anyone else's. BMW doesn't make cars that are aligned with your interests. Apple doesn't make phones that are aligned with your interests. They all make products that are aligned with their interest to make money, they put them in the market and you decided with your money whether you think they serve you or not. That system works pretty well.

You have a choice to use any web search engine you like. You can decide whether you like their results or not by making queries and inspecting the results. You are free to create a competing search engine. Those are your rights.

You don't have a right to require google to disclose how their products work. There's a name for it: trade secret. It's protected by law and it's google's right to keep it to themselves.

I don't think I said I had a right to require google to disclose how their products work.

I do want reassurance that Google's algorithm is aligned with my interests. I want that from everyone who provides me with a service, and every corporation I've worked for has wanted that from their suppliers. If I have evidence that a company is going to work against me in the future, or is doing so now, then I'll choose not to buy their products. Understanding what you're buying is a key part of making markets performing well.

I think BMW does actually try to make cars that are aligned with their customers interests, that's why their customers pay for them them. One part of my point was that I'm not Google's customer - the advertisers are.

I can't choose a car solely by inspection from the outside or even with a test drive. I wouldn't be able to know whether a vehicle was safe, efficient, or reliable over a reasonable lifetime. Fortunately, I don't need to know determine these things for myself for two reasons - we have legally mandated safety and efficiency standards, and the workings of cars are not secret, so other people who know more about cars than I do can examine them and publish their findings.

I wouldn't have to understand the complete search algorithm on my own. Just as with encryption protocols which are also hard to understand, openness would allow a large number of people to participate in the scrutiny. Nobody argues that security protocols should be kept secret because it would be preposterous to try to understand them.

The fact that you suggest that if I don't like Google, my only option is to use Bing as if that isn't much of a choice undermines your argument that the market is working well here.

And no, no other search engine is transparent to my liking. That doesn't make transparency into an unreasonable request - quite the opposite.

Frankly I find your position somewhat strange. Markets work well when we place demands on them, because then suppliers know what to make. If people demand a more open search engine, then perhaps Google will provide one, or maybe a competitor will produce one.

Your argument seems to be that I should not publicly articulate my needs, but instead only choose from what is already on the market and not complain about the aspects I find inadequate. I don't understand what good that's supposed to do.

Agreed. I wanted to make the point that computers are providing more direct feedback into our lives beyond simulators and data stores. I did use stronger language on purpose. It is a bit of a leap to say a computer told you what to do, but it is not that far from the status quo of suggestions.

Facebook example was a bit more of a stretch. I don't think dating sites have very sophisticated automatic algorithms, but something like a game opponent matching system might be a better example of an autonomous system that directly results in a social interaction.

> He's not creepy, just honest.

Maybe he is creepy AND honest? Possible?

He seems honest, just not as comforting as some would like. The problem is reality has become kinda creepy.

Google certainly swallowed a lump of creepiness when they bought doubleclick, that company the state of Texas had sued for stalking. One of the former upper figures there was hired by homeland security. Wonder what skill that was for?

It seems we must ask if Google is far less evil than others would be in the same position.

I'm kind of liking the Apple iAds thing. If done right, it could basically do away with accessing third-party sites when displaying third-party content. The user demographic could be typed simply by the kind of app the ad is in, and just being an Apple customer probably puts him in a more sought-after group of spenders.

Hmmm. I just had an odd thought. For games with ads, dumb down the ads for people with low scores. Mental bandwidth adjustment...

"It seems we must ask if Google is far less evil than others would be in the same position."

No I don't think that's the right question. I think Gruber really nailed it with this:

"Maybe the question isn't who should hold this information, but rather should anyone hold this information."

Unless we presuppose that the answer to the question "is there anything that could be done to stop the mass accumulation of data in this way?" is "yes", then Gruber's question is moot. Why should we make that presupposition in the face of the march of progress in this area?

Of course we should make that presupposition - the US, EU, etc have the power to regulate it.

How? You're basically suggesting the old "country X will regulate what its citizens can or cannot do on the internet" idea, which fails because country X does not control the internet. Users will still leak information to sites that are not under the control of the US/EU/whoever, and those sites will accumulate these informational profiles.

The internet's not a free pass, countries regulate a lot of things for people and companies within them.

Is it feasible for Google, Facebook or anyone else mining data at massive scale to operate outside the US/EU/a couple other countries? I doubt it. The infrastructure wouldn't even handle their websites, which would be a moot point since they wouldn't find 5 digits of the manpower they need lying around in whatever little country.

You can opt out. Stop using Google's search engine. And if you're not comfortable with Microsoft or Yahoo, stop using search engines altogether. Use encyclopedias or libraries.

Ok, can we agree that the answer to Gruber's question is: "yes, obviously, someone needs to hold that information"?

No, at least not without you telling me why someone needs to hold on to the information. In what way is that obvious?

> For games with ads, dumb down the ads for people with low scores. Mental bandwidth adjustment...

The people that score the best on games are the ones not playing them.

And plenty of games are games of skill and not a good way to measure anything other than their reaction speed to visual stimuli.

Okay, let's try going wayyyy beyond that... think what you could do if you actually designed the game for the purpose of testing the user in ways that didn't affect the score.

There are several games with alternate storylines and choices that do not affect the score. Those choices often don't affect the storyline, either, because it's too much work.

When playing such games, I used to save, try various alternatives, and go with the one I liked best in retrospect. When I encountered a game that didn't allow for saving, I was quite bothered and worried about the game "calling home".

These days, I mostly wouldn't worry. A lot of kids slaughtered cities in fallout 2, or accepted quests from all sides so they could get in everywhere and steal the silverware. Few meaningful inferences could be made.

But the meaningless stuff, like red vs. yellow stimpacks? Doing market research with games? That might be worrisome, depending on your feelings about adwords.


The problem is reality has become kinda creepy.

Reality has always been creepy. Imagine living during the 13th century and the plague? Mega creepy.

The idea that reality is not creepy is a relatively recent invention (see Television, also Radio somewhat).

Possible, but if being honest is considered creepy these days it probably means something very bad about our society.

"if being honest is considered creepy"

I don't see it that way, he's not creepy because he's honest, he's creepy because of what he's honest about. The fictional Gordon Gecko was greedy and honest, but we wouldn't say that being honest was considered greedy, just that being greedy was considered greedy and Gordon Gecko happened to be honest about his venality.

In this case, the CEO is being accused of creepiness for the beliefs he espouses, and he is honest about them. If the CEO of another search engine believes the exact same things but says otherwise, you're right we wouldn't consider him creepy yet because we wouldn't know. But the moment we find out, we'd consider that CEO creepy and dishonest.

Mind you, upmodded for forcing me to examine my beliefs carefully. One thing we don't want to do is give people/companies who don't say one way or the other a free pass. In other words, if another CEO says they're in favour of privacy, fine. But it would be unfair to pile on Eric yet say nothing about Ballmer just because Ballmer doesn't say anything. The right thing to do is to ask Steve Ballmer what Microsoft/Bing's stance is on these exact same issues. And ask FB, and Apple, and everyone else collecting data. Saying nothing should not be better than being honest.

I find it a bit creepy, because he (or to be exact Google) is one of the people driving us in that direction.

If you were on a ship, and the captain told you: "It's hard, but at these rate we'll probably go straight into the storm", and then he turns and does nothing about it, or keeps going... I'd find it a bit creepy.

But that's very much a personal opinion. I agree it's not a fair adjective (as in it's too heavy) to use for what we are talking about.

I think we'd be heading in that direction with or without Google. The technology exists, it will be used.

Gruber misinterprets what Schmidt said. He was making a prediction, not a prescription, regarding future social behavior -- young people changing their name as they come of age.

Ten years ago, would anyone have predicted that today we would be able to have online friendships with 1000 people whom we have never met (Facebook), know what they had for lunch (Twitter), see photos from their vacation (Flickr), know their exact location at this moment (Gowalla), what items they have just bought (Blippy), etc. None of this has anything to do with Google or how "creepy" Schmidt is. It seems to me a prescient forecast.

He also takes the "If you have something that you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place." quote out of context, as so many did at the time. Schmidt was pointing out that the government can demand access to data about your searches, and that you need to be conscious of that and be careful.

Between two misinterpretations and quoting a 'quip' to imply that google somehow things it should make all your decisions for you, it is a pretty shoddy post.

Truth. The full comment: "If you have something that you don't want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn't be doing it in the first place, but if you really need that kind of privacy, the reality is that search engines including Google do retain this information for some time, and it's important, for example that we are all subject in the United States to the Patriot Act. It is possible that that information could be made available to the authorities."

If anything, he's saying, don't use Google for illegal searches. Seems like a valid argument and we can apply that to Schmidt's more recent comments too.

Define "illegal search."

Something the government would ask Google for when they are investigating you for the illegal act that they suspect you of. If you kill someone, and your recent Google searches are "how to kill someone", then that's not going to look good.

That's not Google's fault. They don't want to leak that information to the government; they have to. So if you don't want Google to leak that information, don't type it into Google. Use Tor, or figure out how to kill someone yourself.

Or, as Schmidt advises, don't kill anyone.

That's all very easy when the fundamental act is "kill someone".

What if the fundamental act is something you consider innocuous like "donate money to charity"? And the charity is at some point in the future considered by the gov't to be a funnel for terrorist activities.

Or perhaps you do multiple searches along the lines of "jewish traditions". And at some point in the future the gov't declares Judaism illegal, targets jewish-sympathizers and uses Google's data to identify them.

The point (I believe) of the "define illegal search" comment is that what may be considered legal or harmless today isn't necessarily non-criminatory tomorrow.

(On the other hand, there's no such thing as an "illegal search" on Google, so perhaps that was the point of that comment - regardless, my point stands)

In other words: Don't use the Google for anything if you don't automatically accept everything the gov't decrees today and tomorrow.

That is, effectively, what Schmidt is stating when he says "if you have something you don't want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn't be doing it in the first place". Which is also why that statement, in context, is just as creepy as Gruber states.

Obviously it's creepy, but Schmidt is not the creep.

Talk to your congressman.

Anything that would embarrass your parents :)

God, I hope that is not the standard. There are some things I want to know that I think are perfectly legitimate questions, but which I would not wish to ask my parents.

It was a joke, hence the smiley.

Schmidt could have phrased it much better as "If you have something that you don’t want anyone to know, Don't tell anyone."

Schmidt could have phrased it much better as "If you have something that you don’t want anyone to know, Don't tell anyone."

Great point, in hindsight. It's much harder to know these things when you spend a lot of your time in front of reporters.

Maybe it's prescient if it came from you and me. But if it comes from the CEO of one of the companies that has never seem to care much about privacy it's another matter. They _can_ do thing, change them. It seems to me that Schmidt has not problem with such a future, and that's creepy.

There is no reason why Twitter, Gowalla, and the rest could not have good privacy settings. But that would be horrible for Schmidt since he makes money from knowing what you like or what you may like (and you don't even know it yet).

David Brin made a similar forecast more than ten years ago:


...unless you're violating the privacy of a police officer, prominent businessman, or a politician. In that case, you'd better be ready to fight a felony wiretapping charge.

How can you predict the future? Simple. It's easy when you're building it.

Gruber loses it on the facts here. <em>On the other, the Schmidt Google that, in its efforts to serve ads as efficiently as possible, no longer seems concerned with the traditional Western concept of personal privacy.</em> For search ads, nothing matters except your query. It's just contextual -- it doesn't matter who you are, what you've searched on before or if you have a Gmail account.

Now, with Adsense and DoubleClick, Google is starting to play with using more about what it knows about you, but so far, the system only uses traditional third-party tracking cookies AND some data about what you do on YouTube. There's substantial pressure inside the company to break down this wall further (see the recent WSJ article on the leaked docusments), but right now, it's hard to see where Google is "no longer concerned with the traditional Western notion of personal privacy."

Other than that, it's a great troll on Gruber's part.

The more I read about Schmidt the more I think he's soon to be replaced by Larry or Sergey as CEO.

The guy has a knack for putting his foot in his mouth in interviews, and he's been publicly identified as the guy who wanted to stay in China, wanted to abandon Net Neutrality, and who made a few gaffes in reference to the captured wifi network info, etc.

Schmidt is also the face of Google in Washington DC, and has led the Company's efforts to innovate via legislation. He is also very tight with the Obama campaign and campaigned overtly, which is not (in my opinion) an appropriate thing for a CEO to do.

In a lot of ways, his instincts clash with the values that Larry and Sergey seem to be trying very hard to perserve... My prediction is one more gaffe, particularly one accompanied by a stock price dip and he's out.

If you were a shareholder, would you rather want your company to be controlled by a shark, who pursue profits vigourosly at the cost of the occasional PR failure (that doesn't really seem to affect them in any real term). Or would you want it to be controlled by two geeks that started their company with the motto: "Don't be evil" and would put (I imagine) ethics before profit?

Google's business is heavily based on trust, so I think ethics are fairly important.

I was very disappointed to see Google trying to innovate by legislation. Why should a company with the best engineering talent resort to such games?

Also, don't underestimate the impact of the shifting demographics of internet/privacy awareness.

Google succeeded because it had a simple product (search) that just worked, and because its ads just worked. Schmidt has had nothing to do with most of Google's revenue and I think he's more likely to screw things up by approving unwise M&A activity or making ill-conceived public statements than he is to somehow usher in a new era of corporate growth.

Also, I question anyone who is too gung-ho about a political candidate; particularly anyone who does it from his/her public corporate podium. It suggests that the person is overly attentive to the sort of base, clannish activities of humans, taking sides, being in the "in crowd". Such behavior often correlates with success in bureaucratic organizations, but that's not the person you want as CEO.

Wow. Apparently I didn't realise such a post would get me downgraded... did i offend someone's sensibility? Was I rude??? Curious...

Anyway, back to your point. I agree on what you said. But the problem as I see it is that Google (the company) is not hurt by its CEO's gaffes. Facebook is a lot worse, and it's still going strong (and the boycott was a total failure). Google itself is going strong: it's becoming harder and harder to stop using it.

So sure, if Google's business started to suffer because of Schmidt then I would agree. However at the moment it seems that the business has been helped by him not hindered. They may have traded ethics for revenue, but clearly not many shareholders were concerned on that, or the prices would have fallen. Those shareholders would be concerned if Google started to lose business, but that doesn't seem likely to happen at the moment.

You cannot logically justify this statement: "Google (the company) is not hurt by its CEO's gaffes"; with this evidence: "Google itself is going strong: it's becoming harder and harder to stop using it."

It's perfectly possible for Google to be doing worse than it could otherwise have been doing, yet still be doing quite well.

As to your other point, the reason I downvoted it was because it was very short-sighted. Companies that are "controlled by a shark", as you put it, are not well liked, don't attract the best employees, and ultimately get replaced when something with higher values comes along. That kind of thinking is not in the company's enlightened self-interest, and is counter-productive in the medium to long term.

And consequently, no, I wouldn't prefer to invest in such a company, because I would believe it wouldn't have much of a growing future ahead of it. At best, it would maximize profits (as best it can) from mature cash cows in static market; something like Unilever, or P&G. It would be a "safe" investment, and consequently not very rewarding. But in a fast-paced and changing market, it would be a very risky play and subject to dramatic change in less than a decade.

Well, if it was short-sighted you could have replied to it (as you did here) rather than downvoting it... Or maybe I understood the concept of karma wrong. shrug

As for what you say I think on a theoretical level I agree with you. But in reality nowadays a lot of shareholders buy and sell for the short term. Just look at all the companies that have very high stocks as they approach the quarterly report, and once they reported an excellent quarter, their prices fall. And that's without considering all the high-frequency trading.

As for being hurt by the gaffes or not, I agree with you that the evidence (as you put it) is not much. But then what evidence do _you_ have that these gaffes are hurting Google? I think (maybe cynically) that a lot of shareholders are very happy with how Google is doing, and they see a lot of profit in front of it: the finer details of "if the CEO had acted differently" maybe then the business would have been a bit different, seems a bit too abstract.

Also, and this is a point I think it's worth making. When I said controlled by a shark many people seemed to have read that as simply meaning someone with no ethics. But that's not the case. I meant someone who gave up ethics to pursue new areas of expansion. So if you will it's a bet. The shareholder has to wonder how much the predatory behaviour of a company are helping it expand (and if it doesn't expand the shares don't go up), and how much its reputation is hurting it.

During the 90s MS was a really big shark, but it's business was flourishing. Same with Facebook: you and I maybe dislike FB's privacy policy, and surely FB is getting a bit of a bad rep. but at the same time at the start FB didn't have a clear business proposition either.

So yeah, maybe Brin and Page would have kept Google as a wonderful place to be, with great ethics, and a lot of geek appeal (and hence amazing employees). But then maybe that same Google would still be concentrating in improving their search algorithm, and maybe having a good mail system. They would not have pursued a FB killer, a Foursquare killer a Twitter killer, an iPhone killer, or any other killer. Then would that company's revenue really been higher than the real Google's? It's not so clear to me.

So yeah, we can all agree that bad reputation can be bad. But putting ethics above profit may be bad too (even for the long-term profit). It's not clear to me what evidence you've shown that the latter would have made Google richer than the former.

(I didn't mod your comment down fyi). I think it was a legitimate question.

I guess it depends on how much credit you give to Schmidt for Google's success. I find it hard to believe that he deserves much... but I could be wrong.

My impression is that Schmidt was the one behind the massive expansion of Google into everything. Both in its need to have a finger in every pie and it's sequence of acquisition it reminds a bit of MS and other such companies. I don' think Schmidt was behind much of the current success, just behind the direction Google has been sailing to.

But I agree that if Schmidt deserved a lot less credit for it, then his position as CEO would be more at risk from these gaffes.

It's a mistake (though a common one, and almost an American truism) to equate "being a shareholder" with "fixated on next quarter's earnings above all other factors". There are other standards of behavior, even if you still profess an interest only in money, especially if you still want your company to be thriving in a decade.

I agree that a shareholder may be interested in the long term, though not many are (what happens in the long term is not a problem if you manage to sell your shares beforehand).

At the same time I think most shareholders want to make money from their shares. I am sure that there are a significant amount of ethical shareholders, but not enough that their behaviour would change the shares strongly. They would simply pick a company that is more ethical. But as long as Google makes the earnings it makes, I am sure others would happily take their place.

As for the short-term vs. long-term I would agree with you if Google ended up losing business. But I think we (as in the geeky people on this and similar sites) are out of touch if we think they'll lose much. Look at Facebook and the failed boycott. I don't think a few PR gaffes from its CEO would do Google any harm.

Look: I am not defending Google. I hate that people (and shareholders) are not more ethical. I hate that shareholders may hold onto their stock for only a few days or months: originally it was meant as a way to fund companies you believe in, not as a bet on the market. I am just trying to justify why I think there's no way that this or many more gaffes like this would force Schmidt to resign (or be fired).

Expectations of future earnings affect share prices today. And of course if stock markets were perfectly efficient with full information, then stock prices would never change - they would be the net present value of all future earnings.

So the question isn't whether or not Google is profitable today. It's rather, is Google going to be as profitable as it could be in the future? If it keeps up with what it's doing, there's a risk it could attract unwelcome attention from regulators, especially in Europe. It doesn't take much pissing off of the public re privacy for politicians to be motivated to meddle. Google would do well to put that off as much as possible and minimize potential ramifications. And that work pays off in today's prices.

I perfectly agree. It's a risk Google is taking: Schmidt has its pros and cons. The question is not that having a bad reputation may be a risky and one day hurt their revenues. The question is how that would compare to not having done anything, i.e. a Google where Schmidt was not in command. Would we have had Buzz, AdMob, Android and Facebook killers?

So it's the benefit of having Schmidt more or less than the disadvantages brought by his gaffes? My feeling is that apart from a people in tech related websites, most people would soon forget about these gaffes. As evidence I pointed out to Google's current share prices, and other companies that have had similar gaffes or actual problems, such as Apple or Facebook.

True. It's even true from the standpoint that any investment comes with a notion of time frame. If I invest in Google I'm not looking to cash out next quarter, so I'd rather that Google allocate funds toward projects that come to fruition just before my intended cash-out date.

Not all shareholders are eager to sacrifice values and principles to maximize returns.

Sure. But there's enough people who would gladly pay the current price _and_ sacrifice values that I doubt any choice by the "ethical" people would make much of a dent in their share price.

> if you were a shareholder

$461.00 will make you one. So what would YOU want?

For a start I wouldn't want to spend 461$ to have a vote. You know, democracy and all that.

Edit (after being downvoted): why all the bad votes? What did I say that was so bad? Schmidt compared Google to a government. My point is that only shareholders can vote to oust him, and to be a shareholder I've just been informed that it would cost me 461$.

How is democracy (eveyone has a vote), not relevant? If we live in a democracy then surely I should have a say without having to pay 461$.

You can't vote in any democracy if you aren't a member. In publicly traded companies, membership is based on ownership. Ownership will cost you $461. If you are not going to contribute to the company, why should you have a vote in its policies?

The original point was that transparent government ownership of information is better than corporate ownership of information, because votes in government are relatively free/equally split, while voting in a corporation isn't.

Except government has much more power to misuse the information and cause you harm.

Google won't put you in jail, government might.

Governments have too many twisted incentives to be entrusted with too much information. US happens to be one of the better governments, but how successful our voting power was to end or prevent war in Iraq? Or how about recent witchhunt against craigslist? It's not easy to find examples of government doing serious damage.

Google can't start a war.

I would reconsider recommendation that we give government one bit more of power over people.

> If we live in a democracy then surely I should have a say without having to pay 461$.

If you live in the US, then you already have a vote without spending $461 that can affect how Google operates.

If you wish to change how Google operates from within, it will cost you $461.

> How is democracy (eveyone has a vote), not relevant?

Democracy is not about everyone having a vote. Their is a large portion of the US population that cannot vote for various reasons.

As for the down votes: probably because your comment doesn't really contribute anything worthwhile to the discussion.

I agree with you on the first point. Google (and similar data hoarders) should be regulated. A set of laws should explain what they can and can't do, for how long they can keep the data or have to publish it, etc...

The problem I had was more the idea that the choice it between giving our data to the companies (without regulation) and to the government. And incidentally several government have told Google to stop certain actions, but they keep going... so clearly here there's something to solve. (I hope we agree that corporations are not above the law, no matter how big).

As for your second point, that it's exactly what democracy is about. You could say that in practice no country has a perfect democracy. In terms of political philosophy, the state is a construct where each citizen gives up a little bit of its power, to get an organism that will regulate how people should live. However those same citizens can also affect the state by using their vote. Hence why everyone who makes up a country should have a vote.

In reality, we negate the vote to people who we consider were not part of the original deal (i.e. they arrived into the country afterwards), or that we don't consider they know enough and understand enough to take their own choices.

Actually, that vote is going to cost you a significant percentage of your income.

But is there any real reason to believe that Schmidt's view of how things will be in NOT shared by google as a company (or even Sergey and Larry)? Perhaps that is precisely what google wants to achieve?

There's definitely some truth to this, but it has more than a hint of the old trope that "the king is virtuous, but misled by wicked advisors".

If Larry and Sergey have a problem with Google's actions or Schmidt's channeling of Larry Ellison in interviews, no one is in a better place to know or do something about it.

the old trope that "the king is virtuous, but misled by wicked advisors"

That's very well put and I recognize the pattern, but never thought of it this way before. Is this something you figured out from observation, or did you learn it from some source (and if so, what)?

[Schmidt] predicts, apparently seriously, that every young person one day will be entitled automatically to change his or her name on reaching adulthood in order to disown youthful hijinks stored on their friends’ social media sites.

Does this really seem so hard to believe?

I'm one of the developers for a certain popular online video game. One time, I posted my personal email to the game's forums... it was along the lines of "If you happen to reproduce [certain really hard to reproduce problem], please type [console command] and send the results to [email address]". That kind of thing.

Well, one of the fans managed to trace my name -> my email -> my Hacker News profile -> my hacker news comments, then started copy-pasting random things I had written from HN to the game's IRC channel. I didn't really mind... it was just very weird.

But what if I were in an alternate reality, and I had said some really insane things on my HN account, like, say, C/C++ really isn't that terrible? You know, something absolutely crazy. Then an employer traced my name -> my email -> my Hacker News profile -> my insane comments. Now a potential employer has another data point about whether to hire me, one that I didn't necessarily want him to have.

So I can see why it would potentially it would potentially be very useful to have a mechanism to very easily legally change your name. I've never looked into how to do that, since I have no reason to, but I assume it's probably difficult, or doesn't catch everything, or causes you headaches down the road, etc.

>Recall, for example, this comment of Schmidt’s from 2009, regarding Google and privacy: "If you have something that you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place."

It's ironic that Schmidt's quote is taken completely out of context, & will follow him around for years if not decades to come. Maybe he should change his name.

It's not ironic, it's sad.

It's sad that "press" or bloggers like Gruber either can't read or go for sensationalist angle and crucify someone based on benign remarks taken out of context.

It's sad that supposedly intelligent audience like HN falls for it and instead of ignoring it altogether or discussing when Gruber became full of shit, we're actually discussing his post as if what he wrote actually had merit.

But that's not Schmidt's fault. It's all on Gruber.

What is ironic is that you actually said the thing that Schmidt didn't. Per Gruber that makes you a creep.

Can you cite the context?

It's hard to take Gruber seriously because of his bias towards Apple. Gruber is concerned about things Schmidt says, yet not about what Apple does, i.e. creating a device that logs everything you type, takes pictures of you without you knowing it, etc.


creating a device that logs everything you type, takes pictures of you without you knowing it

The article you linked to supports neither of those accusations.

Claim: "logs everything you type"

Article: "The keyboard cache logs everything that you type in to learn autocorrect ... someone with know-how could recover months of typing in the order in which it was typed"

Claim: "takes pictures of you without you knowing it"

Article: "...the phone itself automatically shoots and stores hundreds of such images as people close out one application to use another."

Article: "Every time an iPhone user closes out of the built-in mapping application, the phone snaps a screenshot and stores it"

1 for 2: I missed the part about the keyboard cache (although unless the cache organizes the data in their original sentence structure, I don't see how useful it would be).

However, taking screenshots /= "takes pictures of you"

You're right... I misread that (although secretly taking screenshots is also creepy).

Indeed, he always writes with a bias towards Apple and against competitors of Apple, which of course makes him very popular with the Apple fanboy crowd. That is one of the reasons I never pay a lot of attention to these kind of posts.

Besides that, I may hope my iPhone does not do such thing as you say (at least not sending the information to Apple), otherwise Apple can expect a lot of legal trouble, I guess... ;-)


Do you have anything to comment on the article?

My main gripe with Schmidt (in the way he is presented in the interview[^1]) is how casual he is about all the problems. You almost hear Steve Jobs's voice: "Change your name. Not that big of a deal".

I don't know what goes on in Schmidt's head, and maybe he is as upset about the predicament of today's youth with the vociferous cornucopia of information most people leave behind. Maybe he has come to terms with these reservations at some point, which is why we hear no lament, no reprehensions, no fear and expressed personal(!) feelings.

Nevertheless, he comes across as creepy because of this, be it as an automaton, a corporate CEO, or someone who knows that he at the very least wields the key to the cogs and gears of most of the information-aggregating monster - keeping himself out of harm's way.

I don't get a single vibe from him signalling that he finds the development troubling and at the very least wants to try to ameliorate the situation and development - as a private person and a corporate entity with a lot of influence. He seems to be welcoming the development. At the very least, if he has an moral fibre of independence, he is accepting it, and if he's indifferent, he's acquiescent.

The last person who casually declared privacy dead was Mark Zuckerberg. Go figure.

[1]: I want to emphasize this, because the structure of the article leaves no wiggle room for context and elaboration, which leaves Schmidt with the benefit of the doubt. And so I do. But Google is doing a [expletive] job at managing, building and recovering PR and brand value at the moment.

And the mindset construed from the article lends itself to the recent hubbub of Google's moral qualms of how far they should go to monetize and foster more ad revenue.

David Brin, author of The Transparent Society [1], should do a 1-hour sit-down interview with Eric Schmidt. I'm sure it'd generate dozens of scary-but-true quotes for the blogosphere and social-news sites to wring their hands over.

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Transparent_Society

but at least our government answers to its citizens through elections.

Haha. I agree with him that Schmidt is out of touch but still I trust Google's discretion over that of Congress. If Google missteps everyone cries bloody-murder and it can affect their profits and future projects. Congress systematically abuses power and profits from it.

It is a matter of incentives and culture.

"[Schmidt] predicts, apparently seriously, that every young person one day will be entitled automatically to change his or her name on reaching adulthood in order to disown youthful hijinks stored on their friends’ social media sites."

Or maybe people will just adapt, as people tend to do, and learn to more actively manage their online identities, and selectively upload and monitor information about themselves and their friends online.

Or maybe some intrepid hackers will see this as a problem and solve it with some technology that puts control of our own data directly in our hands, perhaps One Social Web or Diaspora.

Schmidt's prediction doesn't make him sound creepy to me. It makes him sound like a dinosaur. I can't imagine a more kludgey, un-Google-like solution to this problem than people changing their names when they reach 'adulthood', whenever that is (18? 21? 25? 29? 30? 35?).

Especially with rapidly advancing facial recognition technology and information theory, changing your name will do exactly nothing for you in this regard.

Rather I would expect the CEO of Google, the company that seemed to popularize finding clever technical solutions to every problem, to have predicted something more along those lines. What's going on guys?

Edit: now that I reread this, it strikes me that maybe Schmidt didn't put much thought into this prediction and didn't much care to. He's just using an outlandish idea to draw attention to an interesting social problem. Who knows.

Incidentally, I think that the best gift you can give your child is a non-unique name. The ability to disappear into a crowd of identically-named folks when someone searches for your name is priceless.

This is quite a strong personal attack to make on someone, even a public figure.

Creepy is not an objective word, making this article by definition Ad Hominem.

Another contentless post from Gruber. Seriously, why does anybody want to support this asshole by linking to his posts? He's a whiny apple shill.

[Schmidt] predicts, apparently seriously, that every young person one day will be entitled automatically to change his or her name on reaching adulthood in order to disown youthful hijinks stored on their friends’ social media sites.

I'm going to propose something more specific if you want online anonymity. Change your name (or keep this in mind for your future child), both first and last, to something pretty common that suits your taste. When people google you, they'll get so many results of different people with the same name that you'll have anonymity through numbers.

Here is something to help you out, though I'm not sure how good of a tool it is: http://namestatistics.com/

Whenever I google my name, I can never find myself having to sift through hundreds of different people with the same first and last name.

Good point. Though name is only one of many attributes we have. You should also take a common job (how do you feel about being a waiter?), keep a common wardrobe, live in a big city, drive an average car, and watch/read average stuff. Oh yeah, you probably want to ask a surgeon to give you an average face.

Then you'll be anonymous... and you'll also have one of the most boring lives you could imagine.

Sorry, there's an alternative. Corporations are not above the law: if the citizens decide that certain stuff is illegal, then it becomes so. Full stop.

I realise many americans (and other people) hate any type of regulation, but this is exactly what they are for. You don't need to wonder how to stop bribes. You don't say: "Well, this is the way the world is going and we can't do nothing about it". You make a law against it, and then the police will do their best. Will it solve the problem? No, but it would definitely help.

I don't think my profession is very common, nor the school that I went to, or even any of my other details.

I still have a hard time finding myself.

Yes, but we are talking of the future. The fact that we can't do it in the present is not being challenged by anyone. The point is Schmidt's prediction that in the future we will.

Neither of those things is going to work. Grouping all the John Smiths uniquely is going to be possible given smart enough algorithms, so is finding out that John Smith was called Smith Johnson before his 18th birthday.

How many years do you give it? Currently it definitely doesn't work even when you add details like my profession, home town, current location, and even alma matter.

People can do this manually now given enough time by looking at where the person lives, what sort of things he writes about, how he writes (word frequency analysis etc.).

It's only a matter of time before computers can do it too and it's accessible in search engines as "find more results by this person" or something like that.

What if you don't write?

http://howmanyofme.com/search/ is also worth checking out. As with your link, I can't personally vouch for its credibility.

Common names is a double-edged sword. If your name is sufficiently generic you're bound to share it with at least one sex offender...

"Don't be evil" must be one of the biggest PR regrets of Google. Everything they do today is measured up to that

Sure, but they also gained a lot from it.


"Anyone can adopt "Don't be evil." The catch is that people will hold you to it."

From the article Gruber quotes :

>Fortune magazine recently called Google a "cash cow" and suggested more attention be paid to milking it rather than running off in search of the next big thing.

I think any creator worth his salt would hate this line of thinking. The premise that since Google is sitting on pile of Cash and should pay large of chunks it as dividends rather than spending it on "next big thing" is ridiculous. Apple hasn't paid cash dividend since 1995 (http://finance.yahoo.com/q/ks?s=AAPL+Key+Statistics). Well it was so steeped in bad journalism, I couldn't finish it.

Coming to Gruber's article, first - why get personal? And none can deny that Google (or Facebook) wield tremendous power by keeping so much of personal data, but seriously what alternatives he proposes? I can't go back to stone age. Anyone who asks Google, "oh-but you keep so much of our data?" is basically asking a rhetorical question. Personally, I am not afraid. If Mr. Gruber got better ideas if not 'internet', I am all ears.

Seriously? Look, people several time came up with alternatives.

EU gov: "erase your data after 6 months" Google (after a lot of opposition): "fine, we'll erase them after 2 years"

Everyone: "you can't just make me use buzz without me having a say" Schmidt (and I am paraphrasing): "Geez, users are stupid!"

The reason why Schmidt sees no alternatives is because he doesn't want to look for alternatives. They are there. But as the guy with the biggest vault he has all to lose.

> And none can deny that Google (or Facebook) wield tremendous power by keeping so much of personal data, but seriously what alternatives he proposes?

Um, delete the data instead of keeping it?

Like delete my mails and contacts?

No, not like that.

I think that many of Schmidt's comments might be unnecessarily frank (from Google's perspective).

I'm glad he is making these comments because it helps more people understand the privacy issues that they're dealing with. So to that extent, I applaud Schmidt though I'm not sure why he is making all of these comments.It seems like his honesty/candidness (or is it arrogance) is hurting Google.

Anyone who bought that "Don't be evil" could be a legitimate mission statement for one of the most powerful companies in the world is kidding themselves.

Evil is quite relative, especially when billions of dollars are involved.

Google (and Facebook) should be held to a higher standard since there has been no company in human history that knows (or has the potential to know) so much personal information.

The speed with which people rush to discredit that slogan says more about the degree to which it threatens them than it does about Google's adherence to it, IMO.

Also, Gruber attack-dogging Google? Shocking!

I see "don't be evil" as Google signalling that they were playing a long-term strategy rather than short-term one. When that "motto" came about in the early 2000s, the web experience was crap because so many companies were trying to cash in for short-term gain. Instead, Google eschewed short-term profits to be in a better place down the road (and look where it got them verses, say, AltaVista). It's not that Google is benevolent per se, but that by concerning themselves with the long term, a nice side-effect is that users are happier.

"Don't BE evil" isn't the same as "Don't DO evil."

At least now Gruber believes that Android is cool!

" We are moving to a Google that knows more about you."

Google CEO Eric Schmidt, speaking to financial analysts,

February 9, 2005, as quoted in the New York Times the next day


Scroogle is nice because it lets you search without logging a cookie, IP, ect. Google logs a lot about you every time you search. Even if you are not doing something "illegal" you should still be worried. Think of the bigger picture; opsec.

Good ol' ad hominem, it always seems to do the trick. Creepy, I guess that's better than some other things you could be called.

Regardless of how you feel about Schmidt, or to what extent his comments have been taken out of context, the guy consistently draws the wrong kind of media attention to himself and Google. "Creep Executive Officer" describes exactly the kind of image he creates, and it is damaging Google.

I think the point about Google vs. government and who should have our private information is one of the crucial points.

Google is a company and there's very little that we (the citizens) can do against it. Every citizen holds a vote for the government, but only the shareholders have any vote about Google.

Google is a company and there's very little that we (the citizens) can do against it.


That was easy! Now, please let me know how I can select a different set of tax laws, drug laws, civil liberties, tort laws, and foreign policies. (And no, moving to a different country is not as easy as typing in a different URL.)

Right you are. The OP breaks out this old chestnut:

...but at least our government answers to its citizens through elections.

but frankly, corporations are a lot more responsive than governments--I can choose which corporations effect me more easily than I can choose which governments effect me, and while one marginal vote has literally no effect, one marginal sale has at least a marginal effect. So while one political party can happily ignore maybe 1% of the population entirely (polyamorous people trying to get polymarried, perhaps) in favor of an antagonistic 55%, in a business situation any old fringe group can get some business to cater to them (http://www.utilikilts.com/).

In a perfect market you'd be spot on. But the whole point of monopolies and why they may be dangerous to a market, is because they can use harsh measures and people will still need to use/buy their products.

If 60% of the country thinks a government is rubbish, they _can_ be voted out. If 60% of the country thinks a company is abusing its powers but they are a monopoly, then your hands are tide.

Yeah, but "the government is rubbish" is a wide issue. Even then, if 80% of the people think the government is rubbish but 60% also believe the opposition is rubbish, nothing happens. It gets worse when you drill down to single issues. Suppose I'm mad at the FCC. How exactly do I hold the elected government accountable for the actions of the civil service? And how much weight do I give my grievance with the FCC compared to all the other issues influencing my vote? And how do I tell if the opposition is any better?

The argument that we can at least control the government through elections is usually used to defend bringing something under the control of unelected bureaucrats so voters can simply ignore the issue in future elections in favor of some invented controversy about community centers in Manhattan or whatnot.

You vote for it.

Sorry, it may not be much but that's how democracy works. I'd love to hear of a better system but as someone a lot wiser than me said, they haven't found it yet. At the same time these are laws that will affect you AND other people: if everyone thought about themselves we'd get nowhere. We could start a political philosophy discussion but I think it's OT.

As for changing URL, first you may very well lose much in doing so (isn't it getting harder and harder to avoid using Google?). That's the whole point of monopolies, and the USA has many laws to prevent abuse of monopoly powers. Why should we not have laws to prevent abuse of information power?

I don't understand. My vote is meaningless; I've never decided an election. If an election is close enough for one vote to make a difference, you can bet that it will go to the courts. So it sounds like what you're saying is that if I don't like the government, my options are expensive and/or ineffectual, whereas if I don't like Google, I can spend a fraction of a second switching to another search engine.

Of course it's getting harder to avoid Google! But it's still possible, if you feel that it's net beneficial. I think another way to phrase your argument is "By using my personal information to target ads and create more valuable search results, Google can subsidize some amazing products that I love. I would prefer to live in a reality in which such products exist, but can be paid for through some alternative means. Give me that reality, please." Or you mean "It's not worth it for me to use Google products, so I don't."

This isn't like participating in politics; you can actually make a difference. Is Google worth it?

"only the shareholders have any vote about Google."

Although not really, because of the special stock that Larry and Sergei have. They own ~30% of the stock but their shares have 10 votes apiece, so they have complete control of the company, even though they share the financial gains of the company.

Ah, this is VERY interesting piece of information. Thanks a lot. Yep, that does make a lot of difference.

Any idea what happens if they sell their shares and/or die? Do the shares revert to ordinary shares as soon as someone else gets 'em, or is it a special class of stock?

"Do the shares revert to ordinary shares as soon as someone else gets 'em"


The public can do something about it --- people can make it clear that they support (additional) legislation to restrict what information companies can collect and what they can do with it. But, it's not clear that the public is willing to make this an issue that influences their vote enough to overcome resistance to such laws by companies that benefit from collecting and selling personal data.

As for the government vs private company distinction: It seems pretty likely to me that most information that a company collects about a person will, eventually, become available to the government (Gruber touched on this). It may take a warrant, national security letter, or additional legislation for the government to be able to obtain it, but the usefulness of this data for various government functions (e.g. anti-terrorism, tracking fugitives, mining the data for tax cheats, etc) is too high.

I spoke about this just the other night, supposedly a company wants to implement a city wide retina scan system for criminals and for opt-in people it would act as a payment gateway. We both agreed that a company that isn't controlled in some way by the people should not have that information because they can't properly be held accountable through due process. The government having that information isn't much better at all but if you have to choose between the lesser of two evils I'd pick the government.

You can't escape from the government. You _can_ abstain from google's products.

I don't think this is a fair point as most people who are engaged in anything online don't have the technical wherewithal to correctly abstain. How many people do you know who are not directly involved in tech that would even begin to fathom what you meant if you told them to "add a alias to your /etc/hosts file"? Breaking it down further, how many would know what "" meant, or even what "/etc/hosts" was?

They don't have to. If enough people wanted it, anyone one of us on this forum could build a "Google blocker" that would effectively remove google from the user's life and give it away or sell it.

And what if yahoo does it too (as I imagine they would), and so does Microsoft, and Facebook, and Foursquare... at which point you can't abstain any more?

I also can abstain from using the pensions, or public doctors, etc... Sure the government _can_ know some information, but I would imagine there's a lot that's optional there too. It's just that the alternative is so bad that it's not really an option. So would a future controlled by corporations.

You mean abstain from any website that doesn't block google from crawling it and that might have your personal information, either directly from your participation or by aggregating your information from other sources.

Nowadays, there is no difference in online/real privacy. If I would not want to tell anyone/anything in real life, I would/should rather leave digital footprints of it on the internet either.

>at least our government answers to its citizens through elections.

It answers to lobbyists, actually.

I'm really curious on who is more naieve about the Google "don't be evil statement" the founders for thinking a public company could be like this, or the public for believing it.

I think the problem is that "Don't be evil" was mis-interpreted as a credo for Google when it was really a command and warning to its users.

It was originally created by Paul Buchheit. It's in point 6 of Google's corporate philosophy "You can make money without doing evil." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dont_be_evil

Edit: I couldn't tell if you were making a joke or just misinformed.

news.arc owned your single quote:


The problem I have with google is their collection of data. The government needs to control this.

See when it comes to Facebook/twitter only what I WANT to become public, is public. I mean I only post on facebook/twitter what I want the world to see. Lets assume everything is public. While with google I am betting they can know where I live without any sort of geolocation gps or any other technology, because they will know what I search for, where I go (directions on google maps), when I go where I go, where I work, etc. I am betting they can recite my life better than I remember it.

That I have a problem with. And pretty much everything I do online feeds google. And this applies to many online companies, google just does it better.

The days of "lets not be evil, lets be awesome" are easily replaced by "lets make money!"

While with google I am betting they can know where I live without any sort of geolocation gps or any other technology, because they will know what I search for, where I go (directions on google maps), when I go where I go, where I work, etc. I am betting they can recite my life better than I remember it.

If you don't want 'em to know that kind of information, then don't give it to 'em. Don't use google for search, don't use google for maps, don't use google for mail.

Alternatively you can hide most of your identity with careful cookie management, or by using the "Incognito" feature in Chrome, which is made by... aw crap.

Personally I don't bother to hide my actions from google since I never tell them anything interesting enough to catch anyone's attention, but I could if I wanted to.

> If you don't want 'em to know that kind of information, then don't give it to 'em.


It's not like google is breaking into your home, holding you at gunpoint, and forcing you to type your personal and private information. Instead, people are using a network designed for information sharing, putting their information on that network, and then acting surprised when somebody aggregates it. If you don't want google having your private data, quit putting your private data into google software or onto the public internet. They don't know anything you (or your acquaintances) don't either tell them directly or say in public.


Did Gruber float this at Steve Jobs' behest? Great anti-Google talking point, till you realize that Apple has quite a bit of data on you too with iTunes Genius (and will get more with iAds and their new cloud center).

[In this particular case motives are of relevance]

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | DMCA | Apply to YC | Contact