Google CEO: if you want privacy, do you have something to hide?

Google CEO Eric Schmidt is in hot water for daring to suggest that Internet privacy is an illusion. Mozilla bigwig Asa Dotzler suggests Bing is better. In IT Blogwatch, bloggers try tyranny.

By Richi Jennings. December 11, 2009.

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Your humble blogwatcher selected these bloggy morsels for your enjoyment. Not to mention Kungfu Bunny 3...

    Here's Ina Fried, in a fix:

Google CEO Eric Schmidt is the latest Silicon Valley CEO to draw ire after suggesting that folks seeking privacy might not want to look to the Internet to find it. ... Schmidt said, appearing on CNBC ... "If you have something that you don't want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn't be doing it in the first place."

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Among the most interesting reactions was a posting on a Mozilla veteran's personal Web page suggesting that users might want to switch to Bing because of its better privacy policy. ... Mozilla Director of Community Development Asa Dotzler ... shows how one can easily switch Firefox's search engine from Google to Bing.
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The EFF's Richard Esguerra reminds us why we should care:

Schmidt's statement makes it seem as if Google ... is not even concerned enough to understand basic lessons about privacy and why it's important. ... Schmidt's statement is painfully similar to the tired adage of pro-surveillance advocates that incorrectly presume that privacy's only function is to obscure lawbreaking: "If you've done nothing wrong, you've got nothing to worry about."

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[There's an] error in logic that leads to short-sighted conceptions of privacy like Schmidt's. ... Google, governments, and technologists need to understand more broadly that ignoring privacy protections in the innovations we incorporate into our lives not only invites invasions of our personal space and comfort, but opens the door to future abuses of power.
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Asa Dotzler ridicules Schmidt's schtick:

Eric Schmidt, the CEO of Google [is] telling you exactly what he thinks about your privacy. There is no ambiguity, no "out of context" here. Watch the video.

  And here's how you can easily switch Firefox's search from Google to Bing. (Yes, Bing does have a better privacy policy than Google.)
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Bruce Schneier digs up an old post:

Privacy protects us from abuses by those in power, even if we're doing nothing wrong at the time of surveillance. ... Privacy is a basic human need.

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Too many wrongly characterize the debate as "security versus privacy." The real choice is liberty versus control. Tyranny, whether it arises under threat of foreign physical attack or under constant domestic authoritative scrutiny, is still tyranny. Liberty requires security without intrusion, security plus privacy. Widespread police surveillance is the very definition of a police state. And that's why we should champion privacy even when we have nothing to hide.
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Preston Gralla grumpily agrees:

Dotzler has it exactly right. The amount of information Google has about you is absolutely frightening, and the company shows absolutely no concern. ... Google has become exceedingly arrogant, and Schmidt's comment shows that's not about to change any time soon.

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Making the suggestion more dramatic is that Mozilla gets most of its revenue from searches that people do on Google when using Firefox. ... Dotzler should be commended for speaking his mind, even though it can have revenue implications for Mozilla --- the rest of the tech world, particularly Google, should be as honorable.
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Cade Metz has some backstory:

Dotzler was part of the tiny Mozilla team that founded the Firefox project back in 2002. The project was originally known as Phoenix, a standalone open source browser that would rise from the ashes of Netscape. It was specifically designed to battle back against the Microsoft borg, which had commandeered 95 per cent of the browser market through, shall we say, less-than-fair methods.

  Speaking before the fifth anniversary of the browser's official debut, Dotzler showed signs of Mozilla's usual contempt for Redmond. But following Google's shock entry into the browser market in the fall of 2008, Mozilla has exhibited a certain chilliness towards Google as well, and Dotzler wasn't shy about it.
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So what's your take?

Get involved: leave a comment.

    And finally...

Richi Jennings, your humble blogwatcher
  Richi Jennings is an independent analyst/consultant, specializing in blogging, email, and security. A cross-functional IT geek since 1985, he is also an analyst at Ferris Research. You can follow him as @richi on Twitter, or richij on FriendFeed, pretend to be richij's friend on Facebook, or just use good old email: itblogwatch@richij.com.

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