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Schmidt: "common man" not as worried about data privacy

Eric Schmidt

By Nicole Kobie

Posted on 20 May 2011 at 08:26

Google's Eric Schmidt has suggested most people aren't worried about privacy, saying such issues are raised by "elites" not the "common man".

Google's former CEO and now executive chairman has been doing the rounds in London after the Google Zeitgeist and Big Tent conferences earlier this week.

While he has been quoted as saying Google will avoid technologies such as facial recognition and resist anti-piracy laws in the US, he rounded out the week by suggesting that online privacy and data retention are more of a concern to the "elite" than the "common man".

There is a great concern that the internet becomes like a sewer, just full of bad stuff

He noted to the Evening Standard that Street View has been subject to intense scrutiny by some in Germany, but remains a very popular service despite privacy criticism.

Schmidt also acknowledged worries that there was too much damaging or useless content on the internet, overwhelming users.

"There is a great concern that the internet becomes like a sewer, just full of bad stuff and the reason is that it is very easy to generate bad stuff," he said.

"But that's a ranking problem," he said. "So we should be able to help you understand which are the legitimate sources and which are the non-legitimate sources, using complex, very complex mathematical techniques involving signals, and pre-eminence, and the dominant conversation points."

"While we can't detect the truth in a moral sense, we can certainly come to what is a commonly held view - which will help," he added.

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User comments

Data Protection Act

I have agreement in some sense with this argument. My limited experience of contact with the UK Information Commissioner's office is that it is a 100% waste of taxpayers money. And, having a reasonable working knowledge of the provisions of the Data Protection Act (DPA), I am truly sick to death of the way almost all organisations hide appallingly bad customer service behind it (the DPA) by constantly citing it.

By jontym123 on 20 May 2011

alpha.gov.uk

I think Schmidt's view may be a little tainted by being down Google's end of the telescope and it's not in his interest to investigate the view from the other end.

When you think about the transition from direct.gov.uk to alpha.gov.uk isn't part of the problem that "the common man" fears a government that collects too much personal data? That a government website that is too personal becomes big brotherish.

Is it actually that we trust Google and Facebook when they exploit our personal data for financial gain because that's an understandable motive, whereas we fear the more complex and controlling uses a government can put our personal data to use for.

By revsorg on 20 May 2011

Red rag to the bull!

Can't you journos dig up some really embarrassing personal information about this guy and publish it? It's the only way he is ever going to get it, and he can hardly sue after these statements.

Maybe, of course he does not consider himself a "common man"!

By JohnAHind on 20 May 2011

Patronising in the extreme

Desire for privacy has nothing to do with class or elitism. Google is getting more and more patronising these days. It knows better than anyone what is right for us. It knows better than lawyers, governments, copyright owners, everyone.

Wanting online privacy is a desire to not have big corporations abuse us like pawns; it's a wish to have governments not know more than they need to because they tend to lose data quite easily; and in these times of online crime, sticking too much out there is just asking to be robbed.

Elite my a&$e.

By SwissMac on 20 May 2011

Skelton Man

Privacy issues are for everyone else the commercial engine will assimilate everyone.

"Too big to fail" not only exceeds an individuals rights, but also implies bigger than democratic government.

In my OPINION Eric Schmidt is not medically certified. He does not seem to know his elbow from his....

By lenmontieth on 20 May 2011

I think he's quite right that the common man isn't raising data retention question but I'm not seeing how that stops it being a troubling issue.

Almost every issue matters to some people more than others. I'd have thought Eric Schmidt of all people would have understood the concept of "relevance".

By steviesteveo12 on 21 May 2011

All It Takes is a Trigger

Schmidt is right, to a point. Nothing at all matters until the issue is triggered. No driving license or insurance, does not matter until they are caught. Dodgy footballer 'playing away from home' it does not matter until someone catches him out and all hell breaks out. Details of YOUR bank account, date of birth, credit card, passwords, etc., do not matter until someone abuses them. Then all of a sudden things do start to matter and YOU cannot get a super injunction to stop the problems.

By Jonesr18 on 22 May 2011

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