August 12, 2010

Eric Schmidt Looks Forward to Big Brother

"You only need to give up
just a little bit of freedom"
Well, Google's senior management are really keeping us guessing this month. I am not really sure any longer whether the company actually has any coherent point of view on individual privacy. Nowadays it seems you can't even expect consistency. In a startling repetition of his prior assertions that not only is Internet anonymity dead but that he wants to dance on its grave. According to a Read Write Web report Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google, included the following comments in his remarks to the Techonomy conference:
"The only way to manage this is true transparency and no anonymity. In a world of asynchronous threats, it is too dangerous for there not to be some way to identify you. We need a [verified] name service for people. Governments will demand it."

Any government that requires individuals to give up their rights to anonymity is a government past its sell-by date. To my mind this reveals further insight into Schmidt's "what's good for business is good for the people"  view exemplified by the much-discussed recent joint statement with Verizon on network neutrality. It's fairly obvious that Schmidt sees government's role as paving the way for corporations to increase their profits, not preserving the freedoms of the citizenry who elected it. This is so far from "government of the people, for the people and by the people" that it's apparently time "do no evil" was replaced by "make more money".

"But that would hurt Google's
stock price!"
Yet it was only in May (yes, three months ago) that Schmidt was publicly suggesting that as far as Google was concerned "privacy is paramount". Does he really know what the priorities are any longer? It seems like we can dismiss any further utterances as the self-serving flip-floppery of the 129th richest man in the world. What does he really think? Apparently it depends on which way the financial wind is blowing. The really depressing thing is it's transparently obvious that here we have a man who will do well in politics. "The Best Democracy Money Can Buy" indeed.

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