Google CEO's solution to privacy: Change your name

Google CEO Eric Schmidt told the Wall Street Journal that in the future, the passage from teenage life to adulthood will include an automatic name change "in order to disown youthful hijinks stored on their friends' social media sites." No, I'm not making this up.

In an interview with the WSJ's Holman Jenkins, Schmidt rattled on about a wide range of standard topics, from apps to Facebook to Android. The story got enormous pick-up by other media outlets and blogs because Schmidt said: "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."

I actually think that's a reasonable statement. And it reminded me of a "truism" by Mad Men's Don Draper, who said: "People want to be told what to do so badly that they'll listen to anyone." And why not listen to Google?

No, the truly loco thing Schmidt allowed himself to say in public is that he doesn't "believe society understands what happens when everything is available, knowable and recorded by everyone all the time" and predicted that changing your name will become common just to scrap your sordid past off your shoe as you head into adulthood.

What's crazy about this comment is that Google is one company (among others, including Facebook) most thoroughly recording everything we do. Rather than expecting or predicting or suggesting that one day Google will offer the ability to give users control over what the Web knows about them -- a technology prediction -- he makes a sociological or cultural prediction. Oh, people will change their names, and Google's problem will be solved.

In other words, Google isn't even going to try to solve a massive problem that users have. Instead, Users will have to completely alter their identity to overcome the process Google put in place in order to make billions of dollars.

What do you think? Do you agree with me that instead of predicting that people will change their names to cope with Google, the company should be working on a solution? Do you agree with Schmidt that people will actually do this in significant numbers?

Let's hear your views in the comments.

Here's the interview.

This story, "Google CEO's solution to privacy: Change your name" was originally published by ITworld.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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