Google CEO's Eric Schmidt's off-the-cuff answer that people who don't want their homes photographed for Google Street View should "just move" raises the question: Move where? Just where on this planet are you safe from Google's prying eyes?
In a CNN interview on the Parker Spitzer show, Schmidt made this comment about people who don't want their homes photographed by Street View:
"With Street View, we drive by exactly once, so you can just move."
He later told Computerworld that he mis-spoke, and that anyone who wants their house removed from Google Street View can request that Google remove it.
If he did, in fact, mis-speak, it was a Freudian slip. Schmidt has made it clear time and time again that he believes that Google should have access to virtually any information it wants about people --- and that's a good thing not just for Google, but the people whose privacy has been invaded as well.
His vision of the future is one in which Google knows what people think before people know it themselves --- and then Google tells them what they should be doing next in their lives. Here's what he had to say in August how Google will react when the Google search box will "no longer will be at the center of our online lives":
"We're trying to figure out what the future of search is. I mean that in a positive way. We're still happy to be in search, believe me. But one idea is that more and more searches are done on your behalf without you needing to type.
"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."
The Wall Street Journal, which did the interview, explained it this way:
Let's say you're walking down the street. Because of the info Google has collected about you, "we know roughly who you are, roughly what you care about, roughly who your friends are." Google also knows, to within a foot, where you are. Mr. Schmidt leaves it to a listener to imagine the possibilities: If you need milk and there's a place nearby to get milk, Google will remind you to get milk. It will tell you a store ahead has a collection of horse-racing posters, that a 19th-century murder you've been reading about took place on the next block.
As Computerworld's Sharon Gaudin notes, he has a long history of these kinds of comments about Google and people's privacy, including these gems:
"We know where you are... with your permission. We know where you've been with your permission. We can more or less guess what you're thinking about."
You don't even have to be using a Google service for Google to track you. The company's ad network uses a technique called behavioral marketing, or remarketing, to track what you do on the Web, and then target ads at you based on that. You won't even know Google's watching, because you're not at a Google site.
Google began testing this technique in 2009, calling it remarketing to connote the idea of customized messages like special offers or discounts being sent to users. In March, the company made the service available to all advertisers on its AdWords network.
For Google, remarketing is a more specific form of behavioral targeting, the practice under which a person who has visited NBA.com, for instance, may be tagged as a basketball fan and later will be shown ads for related merchandise.
So how can you get out of Google invading your privacy? The company's reach is so pervasive, that to take Schmidt's answer on the Parker Spitzer show to its natural conclusion, if you want to escape from its prying eyes, you can just move...to Mars.
This story, "Don't Want Google to Invade Your Privacy? Move to Mars." was originally published by Computerworld.