My old pal Eric Schmidt – you know, the guy who was hanging out in Obama’s Chicago campaign headquarters on Election Day eve in 2012, only to later bankroll a consulting firm exclusively for Democrats – is at it again, trying to convince the world that he and Google are really, for serious, super-duper upset about the NSA invading our privacy.
Schmidt told a conference audience in Santa Monica last week that he’s totes upset that the NSA, which is under the authority of the president he helped elect, didn’t buy him dinner before snooping through user data:
“What relationship?” he asked. “They didn’t knock. They didn’t send a letter. They just visited.”
He repeated the refrain at SXSW, saying Google had been attacked by China in 2010, and again by the NSA in 2013. I would probably feel sorry for Schmidt and Google if that wasn’t precisely the way Google treats its customers. After spending so much time and money electing present-day Democrats, let’s all enjoy the schadenfreude of Schmidt comparing our government to the Chinese. Caveat emptor.
Google is currently embroiled in a class action lawsuit in which they have been accused under wiretapping statutes of illegally scanning the content of all our emails to do whatever it is Google deems is appropriate use of your information. As a company, Google is really worried that people might not trust them, so of course the obvious thing to do was to seek a gag order in the class action suit so media can’t report on developments in the case.
Even the kooks at Berkeley are growing wary of how Gmail abuses user privacy:
The content one box infrastructure would allow Google to understand the meaning of all of our communications: the identities of the people with whom we collaborate, the compounds of drugs we are testing, the next big thing we are inventing, etc. Imagine the creative product of all of Berkeley combined, scanned by a single company’s “free” email system. Through the glass of the Fread v. Google lawsuit, darkly, we are just beginning to understand what it means to outsource our communications system….
Given Google’s positions in other cases, we could be more savvy about this company’s ideology and what our support of it means for society. For instance, in another case, Google argued that individuals have no privacy interest in their unencrypted wifi signals. Under this logic, Google could intercept Airbears traffic and read your emails and monitor your browsing activity. We have outsourced our email and documents to a company that believes that technical might equals right.
Perhaps the most damning nail in the coffin came when former NSA deputy director John Inglis uttered these sentences in an interview with the Wall Street Journal last week:
Now, the former NSA deputy director is warning technology companies that amass vast amounts of personal information to learn from his agency’s mistakes. Be transparent about what they collect, and why they collect it, Mr. Inglis said last week from the vendor floor of a cybersecurity conference here.
“There’s an enormous amount of data held in the private sector,” Mr. Inglis said, in his first published interview since leaving government. “There might be some concerns not just on the part of the American public, but the international public….”
“These companies at least have a public relations issue, if not a moral obligation, to really make sure you understand that this is to your benefit,” Mr. Inglis said. “As an individual, myself, I continue to be surprised by the kinds of insights companies have about me.”
Google, when a former NSA spook tells you that you need to quit spying, or to be open about what you’re up to, your problems are bigger than NSA mining your servers for user data, allegedly without your consent.
Given Google’s hypocrisy, how little the company is actually worried about our privacy, and Eric Schmidt’s social media shenanigans, I’d be very worried right now if I was a Playboy bunny. And what I just did to you with that mental image is what Google does to us every day – only they do it without us seeing it.
But hey, maybe we shouldn't be worried at all, right? After all, I've been told that it's conspiratorial nonsense to be concerned about a company amassing political influence while gaining access to all of our private information. I mean, it's not like huge companies with inappropriate relationships that pretend they're above the law while enriching themselves is something to worry about...right?