Google CEO Dodges Privacy Concerns

A lot of folks are picking up this story originally from Gawker of statements Eric Schmidt made on a CNBC program. The troublesome quote?

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

This is obviously a variation on that old saw about only those with something to hide require privacy or secrecy.

Google’s trend toward greater data collection actually reinforces the one constructive response I’ve heard to this rhetorical trick: if I had reasonable expectations of how others will use my private data, I’d have no need of privacy or secrecy. Worse, Schmidt continues his deflection by explaining how the search giant is still subject to sub-poenas and the Patriot Act, making it out like they’d protect user privacy if they had a choice.

This fuels my thinking that we need a stronger transactional model for privacy, though my ideas on how to implement such are still half formed. Basically, if Google finds our personal, potentially private, data so valuable, we should be able to secure much more than targeted ads and useful web 2.0 widgets in exchange. We should be able to leverage that value, somehow, into securing those reasonable expectations of how Google, and others, will treat our data or be able to invalidate the transaction, robbing them of its use.

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