What is it about Google that gets people so riled up? After all, it’s a company that has revolutionized the ease in which we find and process information, not to mention the way we consume video content.
If that seems like an overstatement, just think back 15 years or so to how you once researched questions or searched for information … like trudging to the public library or placing “wish-and-wait-for” phone calls to other offices or government agencies.
Maybe we get frustrated with Google because even though the company’s informal slogan is “Don’t be Evil” … every time we turn around, it seems the company is saying or doing something to (deliberately?) engender consumer dissatisfaction.
Consider the comments of Eric Schmidt, Google’s CEO, who speaks often about the role of Google and how it relates to the personal privacy of consumers. There he goes, wandering from media outlet to media outlet, dropping bon mots — others might call them “verbal bombshells” — like these:
What’s more, Mr. Schmidt seems to be digging in his heels on Google Maps. I’ve blogged before about this controversial initiative, as it began to become evident that Google was collecting more than just photos of people’s homes.
Just this past week, Google finally admitted that its Street View vehicles had been scooping up a lot more than just “meaningless fragments” of information from unsecured WiFi networks as it sweeps through neighborhoods. The digital harvest has included full e-mail addresses and passwords.
Alan Eustace, Google’s senior vice president of engineering and research, seemed apologetic. “We are mortified by what happened,” he said.
But Eric Schmidt may have revealed the true feelings of the company when he suggested on CNN’s Parker-Spitzer program that the people who don’t like Google’s Street View vehicles taking pictures of their homes “can just move.”
Of course, complaining about Google is a great armchair activity that may be little more than petting grousing. I know of few (if any) people who would be willing to forego the benefits that Google’s vaunted information and content engine delivers.
Going forward, it does appear that Google may be a bit more receptive to the concerns people have expressed. This past Friday, the company announced that it has appointed a new “director of privacy” across its engineering and product management. Reportedly, Alma Whitten, the person appointed to this position, will be focusing on building privacy controls into products and internal practices.
We’ll see how that goes.