Saturday, October 09, 2010

Most of you have seen the recent and now semi-infamous quote from Google CEO Eric Schmidt about how Google goes right “up to” what it considers a taboo boundary — “the creepy line” — but not beyond:

“There is what I call the creepy line,” he said at an event at the Newseum. “The Google policy on a lot of things is to get right up to the creepy line and not cross it.”

If you look at the slightly larger context of this comment you see that it’s intended to be a joke of sorts. But the degree to which this quote was repeated and blogged about reflects the sensitivity (and fear) that exists around Google’s data collection and targeting practices.

Last month a former Federal Trade Commission official filed a privacy complaint against Google. According to the Wall Street Journal:

The complaint was filed September 6 by Christopher Soghoian, who worked until August as a technologist with the FTC’s Division of Privacy and Identity Protection. It calls on the agency to investigate Google and to “compel Google to take proactive steps to protect the privacy of individual users’ search terms.” The complaint alleges Google shares with third parties users’ search queries, including those that contain personal information.

The complaint, which is extensive and highly technical, alleges deceptive business practices in that Google shares search queries with third parties (publishers/webmasters). The complaint argues this misleads the public because it goes against Google’s pledge not to share personally identifiable information...