Google weighs in on AOL slip-up

Written by Brett Thomas

August 10, 2006 | 15:17

Companies: #aol #google

Just over the weekend, AOL slipped up, releasing scads of personally identifiable search records into the 'net. The move sent privacy watchers into a tizzy, and the industry has been hanging back to see what the fallout will be from it. Now, Google's CEO Eric Schmidt has spoken publicly about the incident while at the Search Engine Strategies industry conference in San Jose, California.

Schmidt, who was answering questions on-stage at the conference, cautioned that government demands were a far more dangerous thing for net privacy than little slip-ups like AOL committed. "The more interesting question is not an accidental error but something where a government, not just the U.S. government but maybe a non-U.S. government would try to get in," he said.

As the privacy concerns heat up, Google has a lot to be concerned about. Along with being the largest search engine on the web, Google also indexes the most search records and over the longest period of time. It does this with user consent (part of the terms of use for the service) in order to help develop more targeted advertising. As the company operates in more and more countries, it becomes more vulnerable to government interests both at home and abroad.

So why not just purge the records more often? "We have actually had that debate," Schmidt replied, and quickly moved into his next topic about Google's data security.

It's a very bold statement to make when you're saying that the leadership of nations is more dangerous than the idiotic bungling of over half a million users' identifiable search terms, and it says a lot about how Google views threats to our privacy. Got a thought on Schmidt's words? Let us know your view in our forums.
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