back to article Schmidt: Erase your identity to escape Google shame

Increasingly bonkers Google governor Eric Schmidt has seen the future, and you might have to change your name to be a part of it. According to the man in charge of the company de facto in charge of the web, young people's tendency to post embarrassing personal information and photographs to Googleable social networks means …


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  1. Ian Yates

    At least /some/ sense

    "I don't believe society understands what happens when everything is available, knowable and recorded by everyone all the time,"

    This is something I've tried to enlighten my facespace-addicted friends on.

    - There is *no* delete.

    I don't know how many people have really thought about what that means, when they're uploading "amusing" photos and publishing brain diarrhoea.

    I'm not a paranoid conspiract theorist, I just notice how much personal information people are currently happy to give away for a small amount of convenienve, without apparent thought to how it gets used.

    1. Random_Walk

      There is one bright spot... least for those of us with real common names. :)

      Having come from a somewhat lengthy online background, I find it amusing that, to date, it's kind of hard to find me in and amongst my similarly-named fellow citizens.

      I know, because there have been a few rather frustrated-yet-impotent folks online who have tried (and failed with some rather amusing results) with more than the usual passion.

      -the coat? Yeah - mine's the one that looks too much like everyone else's. :)

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      There is no delete

      I think Schmidt has just demonstrated that there is a delete. Albeit a somewhat extreme one.

      1. Iggle Piggle

        Roll on names reunited

        Schmidt seems to be ignoring the fact that facial recognition means that while you may decide to take a new identity it will be short lived unless you couple it with plastic surgery. I use Facebook but never publish anything I'd be unhappy have my mother read (which is just as well because she is also on Facebook).

  2. Josco

    Buy Milk?


    In the future, you'll be bossed around by your Android mobile phone - it'll apparently tell you to buy milk, for example.

    I don't need my HTC Desire to tell me to buy milk, my wife does that already.

    (The coat with the tin foil tops in the pocket.)

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Does she tell you by calling you up on your HTC Desire?

      See, she's just a small cog in the machine......

      Where's the pitchfork icon?

  3. Pete 2 Silver badge

    All use the same name?

    So if/when we all get to change our name, how about we all change it to the SAME name as everyone else. That way we'll all gain anonymity as we'll all be indistinguishable from everyone else.

    Until we have to start using our DNA signatures to log in 'cos some numpty suggested everyone adopt the same name.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      Let's all call ourselves Pete.

      1. lpopman

        titular nonsense

        Cn I B clld Pete 2?

      2. Random_Walk

        was hoping for Bob.

        Bob Dobbs, to be precise.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Bring back...

      "Hello, I'm Joanna Lumley"

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward



        1. Anonymous Coward

          ... no, I'm Brian

          and besides, we're all individuals. One cross each !

    3. Noons

      in Australia, everybody's called Bruce.

      I'm surprised nobody has mentioned that yet.

      1. Homard

        Unless you're a bloody sheila

        Point made !

  4. Fogcat

    The life GPS is on the way?

    (Off to wipe the fridge door)

  5. petur

    The problem is more like this

    People don't understand that showing off stuff on the internet has a slightly larger audience than when you do that just among your friends. With young people it is even worse...

    I don't think Google cache is any specific problem, your stupid moves can/will also end up on a number of other places, like failblog,...

    1. Code Monkey


      I recommend Lamebook.

      I don't work for them; I just like to spend 10 minutes a day laughing at the stupid.

  6. DavCrav

    Confused by his argument...

    "...that users will simply walk away if it does anything "creepy"..."

    And it's still doing the creepy thing, though, right? Maybe the creepy thing is a "stalker tool", that allows stalkers to know your whereabouts based on publicly available information. Sounds creepy. And if normal users leave, the stalkers will presumably stay...

  7. disgruntled yank Silver badge


    As a country populated by immigrants--with the names found in the early waves like to carry prestige as compared to those in later--and with for a long time a large frontier, Americans are pretty well used to name changes. I offer for The Register's updating an old frontier song:

  8. Lionel Baden

    I might be shooting myself in the foot

    But i plan to Educate my children to be responsible on the internet as they should be resposible in real life.

    And dammit im Proud of my Family Name and i expect my children will be as well.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Shurely shome mishtake...

      Mr Baden, you sound like a Grown Up - what on earth are you doing joining in this debate, it's not for sensible people...

    2. BristolBachelor Gold badge
      Thumb Up

      You are a rare breed

      Wait; you plan to educate your children? What's more to be responsible?

      I have the same aspirations, but I feer that by the time I have some, they may be the only ones that are responsible and have respect for anything...

    3. Rob
      Thumb Up

      I'm with you Lionel...

      ... respect and responsibility is going to be the staple diet for my son. If he's prepared to say or do it then he has to learn to stand-by his actions rather than 'fire and forget'.

  9. Stone Fox

    So speaks a resident of maddonia

    who's primary exports are mixed nuts and batshit.

  10. MinionZero

    what the? ... what! ... what?!!! ...

    "I don't believe society understands what happens when everything is available, knowable and recorded by everyone all the time," he says.

    Wow, I don't believe I actually agree with Eric Schmidt ... no wait, I haven't lost my mind, I must be missing something, ah yes, here it is ... "will all be entitled to change their name" ... yeah and like that will do absolutely F'all in this brave new world of "everything is available, knowable and recorded by everyone all the time" ... in otherwords traceable back again. No escape from Big Brother I mean Google.

    So why is he saying this? ... could it be just another two faced attempt to distract flack from the idea Google are keeping too much information and so says, don't worry, people can change their names.

    F'off Eric Schmidt, I mean Fred Smith, CEO of Google, (formerly known as Eric E. Schmidt, born in Washington, D.C. After graduating from Yorktown High School (Virginia),[8] Schmidt attended Princeton University where he earned a BSEE in 1976 etc...).

  11. Sir Runcible Spoon


    I did this back in 2000, partly to annoy my old man, but a useful byproduct was to distance myself from the only google-able fact on my old name which was a bit of a usenet posting that incited a riot at RIPE :)

    My new name has *zero* hits that can be identified as being me. Woot.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Big Brother

    Hi I am Andy S.

    .... and this message will haunt me till the end of time.

  13. Vladimir Plouzhnikov

    More likely

    It will become strange if your naked pics are NOT available on the internets - people will think you are, maybe, a bit weird or some kind of upper-class snob, you know...

    1. BristolBachelor Gold badge
      Black Helicopters

      Yes, probably

      It will be like the guys in France who were arrested for suspicious activity including "not having a mobile telephone" and "leaving his mobile telephone behind when he went to a meeting".

      1. Boring Bob

        Er, Nope

        "It will be like the guys in France who were arrested". That was in the UK, the police used it in a terrorist trial.

        1. Geoffrey W


          <Quote>"It will be like the guys in France who were arrested". That was in the UK, the police used it in a terrorist trial.</Quote>

          Now its starting to sound like a FOAF tale. You know, Friend Of A Friend - urban myth. In other words, it never really happened.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I think...

      ...Ben Elton wrote a book about this...

  14. STurtle

    What if no one no longer embarrassed?

    Will the future generations even care about possible embarrassment of that kind? It's no longer embarrassing once everyone does it, once it becomes the norm.

    I don't do Facebook myself, I don't see the point, but I already start to feel left out. Pretty much everyone seems to do it. I think I am regarded as old-fashioned to worry about these things.

  15. peyton?

    To borrow the quote

    I don't believe Eric Schmidt understands society.

    What's to say that what is embarrassing today won't be de rigueur tomorrow? He needs to get out and watch more Futurama.

  16. Simpson


    My google search results are all telling me that Schmidt will leave me his fortune, when I one day bump into him at a Utah gas station

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So how long before

    Google offer a dedicated "previous name\alias" search?

  18. Dan 55 Silver badge

    Not "recorded by everyone"

    "I don't believe society understands what happens when everything is available, knowable and recorded by everyone all the time."

    Not recorded by everyone all the time, just search engines which have their privacy policies driven by their directors who are seemingly unaware that SQL has a DELETE command.

    1. Gannon (J.) Dick
      Big Brother


      Sycophancy is an unrecognized prion disease in the Hive Mind. Even the suggestion that such a thing would exist , will earn you the coveted "miscreant" label from one end of your ever-so flat earth to the other.

      Eric Schmidt saying you have no Personal Privacy is like Enzo Ferrari saying there is no speed limit outside your kid's kindergarten. Saying so does not make it so; acres of Astroturf recommendations notwithstanding.

    2. Homard

      The answer is

      To have your computer post masses of harmless pointless idiotic crap, designed to create huge numbers of cross-references against your id.

      With everyone doing it the old cross-reference table is going to get very big. Slow searches and drivvel search hits will be the result.

      More disk space anyone ?

  19. blankisbeautiful

    Max Headroom was right

    Blank is beautiful.

  20. Anonymous Coward

    Surely it's better

    To use the pseudonym for the on-line crap that you publish and then use your real name when you actually grow up and realise what a total twat you've been spewing your life for all to see. Or is that too simple?

    Oh, hang on, Google wants the REAL information for marketing..silly me.

    Rule 1. NEVER use your real identity for when registering for these sites.

    Anon - obviously ;-)

  21. Keith 21


    Perhaps, once so many people have so much stuff onlone, like those amusing-yet-embarassing drunken party pics, the rants about that shop down the road, the cringeworthy declarations of undying love to a suitor long-since forgotten...

    Perthaps once that sort of stuff is on the 'net for pretty much everyone, then we will all collectively realise that pretty much everyone does stupid things at some point in their lives, and it will cease to be an important consideration, and we can all move on with life.

    Perhaops uptight employers will stop gasping in horror when they discover a prospective employee got drunk at uni, and instead will realise that hey, that kid did pretty much the same as they woudl have done or did, and that was in the past.

    A decade ago I was on usenet a lot, got involved in the opbligatory flame wars from time to time. It's all there, recorded forever.

    I used to cringe when I came across them years later, hoping that people wouldn't see them.

    Now I realise that the person who posted them, me a decade ago, isn't the same person as I am now; like everyone, I've changed as I got older; those posts were me then, this is me now, and if you are too dumb to appreciate the difference, then that's your problem and not mine.

    The sooner we all realise that, the sooner we can all get on with ENJOYING LIFE!

    1. Anonymous Coward

      So you're the bastard!

      You ruined my life - I'm coming to get you!

    2. MyHeadIsSpinning

      I wish I had such tough skin

      I would be embarrassed if somebody dug up all the silly or regrettable things I have done or said in my past, presented it to the world and then said it was me now.

      Of course it is not me now, I was young and silly then; I am not that person now.

      I would still be embarrassed at the idea of having to tell the world plus dog that, after the proverbial mud has already been slung.

    3. heyrick Silver badge

      @ Keith 21

      Perfect post! And yes, speaking as somebody who got involved in a lengthy flamewar or two on Fidonet, which ought to give you an idea of how long ago that was. I was contacted not so long ago by somebody who discovered this and wanted my opinions on the other person involved. WTF? That was so long ago I can barely remember his name, never heard of him since those days and - for me - there's no animosity. It was then. I've moved on, I'm sure he has too. But the thing is, when the words are right in front of you, it is so easy to overlook the datestamp and engage a little bit of mental activity to understand that a teenage dickwad is not the same as a wiser (uhhh, I hope?!) thirty-something. And I'm not talking about him, I'm talking about both of us. In loooong hindsight, it was stupid. And pointless. Like 99% of stuff that's being archived forever. I'm a little embarrassed, sure, but it's part of my history, I'm not going to hide it. I just hope the next person that digs it up takes the time to realise it wasn't written yesterday. Maybe Google should paste in a CSS effect so anything over five years old is displayed in increasingly darker shades of "parchment"?

  22. Anonymous Coward

    "it'll apparently tell you to buy milk, for example."

    Haven't scientists been saying that about computers for the last 20 years?

    Every year we're promised a golden age of computers telling humans to buy milk and it never happens. Why? Because people couldn't give a fuck about milk.

    Where are the computers that tell you the things you really want to know? Like the best career move or guaranteed strategies for seducing that girl you always liked?

    Maybe if computer scientists spent a little less time worrying about the milk and a little more time worrying about the poonani, people wouldn't hate them so much.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      There are some problems with your post. The title is required,

      The big breakthrough in Artificial Intelligence is ten years away. Always has been, always will be.

  23. Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

    Don't see how this would help

    Inevitably, someone changing their name would not want to lose all their old friends. (After all, I don't expect this is supposed to be as extreme as witness protection.) The "new name" account and "old name" account will end up having a lot of the same friends; also, the activity will drop precipitously on the old account at just the same time the activity picks up on the new one. Very few people would bother to dig around this much to find someone's old name... BUT.. inevitably, someone would decide that's a GREAT idea for a new web site, and the site would do the digging automatically. Result? Changing names doesn't help much.

    To me, the solution is simple. 1) Don't put up photos and posts so embarassing you'd want to change your name. 2) If you insist, send them directly to those you think would be amused, or put them on some web space that does not have your name plastered all over it (i.e. almost any free web space), if the photos are funny enough they might still spread around the internet, but at least they won't have your name associated with them then.

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Big Brother


    "The Shockwave Rider", by John Brunner, 1975, ISBN 978-0345467171

    Very good, prescient, book.

  25. Dave 142


    His plan is rubbish. I'd just google 'what did xxx used to be called' then I'd have their old name and their info anyway.

  26. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    what Ian Fleming would have done with Eric Schmidt for a model.

    It's not an anorak, it's a dinner jacket of course.

  27. Anonymous Coward

    Right, so you change your name

    and then sign up to Google Me (you know it's coming) and go through the tedious process of repopulating your list of friends again, only for one mutual acquaintance to say "Oh, didn't you used to be…?" and bring the whole house of cards tumbling down?

    Or are you supposed to force all your friends to change their name because of your own indiscretions?

    Seriously, does Schmidt think ANYTHING through before he opens his mouth?

  28. FARfetched

    One good point

    "I actually think most people don't want Google to answer their questions," he claims. "They want Google to tell them what they should be doing next."

    Maybe not *most* people, and maybe not Google, but a lot of people want to just be told what to do; e.g. teabaggers in the US, BNP/SNP in the UK.

  29. Bryce Prewitt
    Thumb Down

    The obvious answer here is...

    ...that the Wonder Twins never should have hired Eric Schmidt in the first place.

    Surely they're just biding their time until Google invents a Time Machine and erase him from their corporate history. Actually, they could do that all ready, they'd just need to speak with some old Soviets about the process...

  30. DJ

    All Eric Schmidt needs... a monocle and a Persian cat.

    Ths sad bit is that he's right.

    And he knows it.

    And he knows no one is going to stop him.

    And he's getting rich in the process.

    Privacy exists only in our dreams now.

  31. Anonymous Coward


    Tell you what how about you just go down "the carousel" when you hit 30, eh?

    Better still why not simply abandon any pretentions that you are an individual and simply get a desigantion like...THX-1138!!

  32. Keith Wingate

    Catch 22?

    "if you have something that you don't want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn't be doing it in the first place"

    "One idea is that more and more searches are done on your behalf without you needing to type," he says.

    So, will be held accountable for the searches done "on [our] behalf"?

  33. kevin biswas
    Thumb Up

    Sounds like someone forgot... take their haloperidol this morning.

  34. Eeep !

    People in power over others need this lesson more than young people

    1) Secret = something you know that you don't want some else to know.

    2) Reputation = what someone else knows about you, good or bad.

    3) Shame = (1) intersect (2) where someone, anyone, consider not good.

    4) "Anyone" in (3) is dynamic with time.

    When your world was a hamlet you lived with previous indiscretions or moved to the next hamlet in hope of a blank slate reputation.

    When your world was a town you lived with previous indiscretions or moved to the next town in hope of a blank slate reputation.

    When your world was a city you lived with previous indiscretions or moved to the next city in hope of a blank slate reputation.

    When your world was a county you lived with previous indiscretions or moved to the next country in hope of a blank slate reputation.

    When your world was the world you lived with previous indiscretions or moved to the next world in hope of a blank slate reputation.

    The internet is not just the world for your reputation, its archived !

    Witness Prime Ministers and Presidents trying to buy undeserved historic legacies.

  35. Sureo

    The life GPS (@fogcat)

    Yes, and Google will record every move you make.

  36. Aaron Em

    "Human point two"

    "I actually think most people don't want Google to answer their questions," he claims. "They want Google to tell them what they should be doing next."

    So when do you think was the last time Eric "Cyber-Controller" Schmidt spent even as much as five minutes in the world of humans?

    1. skeptical i

      With all due respect, Aaron ...

      ... try changing the word 'Google' to the name of the deity of your choice, the name of a governmental/ political leader, et cetera, and you can see that Eric is basically correct with the only quibble being the percentage of the population for whom this holds true. I *hope* that 'most' is a vast overstatement, but I've been disappointed before.

  37. Mr Young

    I've seen some films

    and they mad geeks always go for world domination. Insanity is it?

  38. Ian Michael Gumby

    Riddle me this...

    "Despite this vengeful protection of his own privacy from his own search engine, Schmidt today maintains Google's line - one of its favourite anti-regulatory positions on a host of issues - that users will simply walk away if it does anything "creepy". He's unfazed by the contradiction between this assertion and his somewhat creepy claims that people Google nodes in the future will feel the need to change their names because of the information linked to their real identities."

    Ok, so riddle me this... how do you walk away from a monopoly?

    And even if you do walk away, how does that stop you from having your stuff tracked by Google?

    Even if people stop using Google, but Google is still snarfing everything on the web, it doesn't solve the problem.

    The only thing that will solve the problem would be to create a net privacy law that will essentially put Google out of business unless they change their business model.

    Fail, because Google is evil!

  39. Anonymous Coward

    No, I am Σπάρτακος

    Frankly, I'm tired of Sergio and his twisted double-standard. Break up google.

  40. Pete 8
    Thumb Up

    LOL Soon

    I share names with a very prominent person in the media/blogoshere, who uses publicists galore.

    He can continue to provide a tsunami of obscurity for my name, IP addresses are different though.

    Schmidt needs reminding that his Panopticon is a Two-Way Administrative Tool.

    LOL = Live Onlive L.O.V.E.


    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      How about a slightly more simplistic/deviant approach

      create an email account on gmail that has some variation of "eric schmidt" in it. Every time you're propmpted to register with a website, simply use the name Eric Schmidt and that mail address. Before you know it, Mr. Schmidt is more famous than the chump who was the default friend on My Space, and has a rap sheet of seedy posts and questionable browsing habits, forever enshrined in his "gift" to humanity.

      Ethical? nope. Illegal? Most probably. But linking Der Schmidt to Polish grandmother dominatrixes spanking Spanish men, to arguments over the evils of waffles is quite amusing.

      1. Ian Michael Gumby

        Not Illeagal

        The fact that you set up an account as Eric Schmidt is not illegal unless the real 'Eric Schmidt' can prove that you're trying to steal his identity.

        Even if you don't post all of Eric's details, like where he lives, the net doesn't know if its the same Eric Schmidt. So people who google Eric Schmidt will make the assumption you want.

        And no, you can't live it down.

        Of course what Eric Schmidt seems to forget is that if you legally change your name, the name change is a matter of public record. Ooops. And of course you can't stop Google from snarfing up public records....

  41. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "They want Google to tell them what they should be doing next."

    I will be spending the rest of the week running searches for "STFU Eric Schmidt". Do feel free to join in.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      This quote makes sense...

      ...if you read the quote below it.

      He's saying that this is what papers already do. That, somehow, Google gives you a less black & white view of the world but this doesn't seem to be what a lot of people want.

      I use Google news in this way to a certain extent. If you have "your" newspaper (or even worse, "your family" newspaper) then you have a single world view that does, to a certain extent, tell you what to think. With Google news I read Gruaniad articles juxtaposed with those of the Daily Hate, etc.

  42. Lghost

    It would be nice

    if someone could Ctrl F4 eric schmidt.

  43. Steve Brooks

    Societies sick, fix it, fix the problems!

    Seriously, it aint the information out there thats the problem, its people in society who think they have the right to judge you because you don't behave as they do. Basically, if it aint illegal, tell em to fuck off, most of em have done the same or worse anyway. If your boss sees you getting pissed or showing your jubblies on the internet and decides to persecute you for that he should be locked up, if kids show thier naughty bits its only the shame and fear of punishment that prevents them from reporting the nasty little toe-rag that tries to take advantage of that. Get rid of the shame and fear and 99.9999% of the problem vanishes. And where does this shame and fear originate? Yes can guess, I don't have to tell you but you all know the groups that think nakedness is a sin and showing your naughty bits should be punishable by stoning!

  44. Calum n Shady

    and while you're at it get Plastic Surgery....

    'cos Google face recognition software is getting better every day...

    If everybody knows everything about everybody does that mean there will be no sniggering at the back in the future ?

  45. JimC

    Its a damn nuisance...

    I write a weekly report for my sailing club, and of course such reports are most interesting when they detail things that went wrong, and sailing is one of those sports where things can go wrong in an amusing and mildly embarrassing way rather easily.

    Because nothing is evanescent any more, I feel I have to anonymise the names of anyone who is on the embarrassing side of an incident, which in turn takes half the fun out of it, because, for instance, a beginner losing control of their boat is just one of those things that happens, but if the club hotshot does it then reporting it would give their opponents a grin and the aforesaid beginners some embarrassment. But if its just "someone" its all pretty meaningless and takes a lot of the fun out.

  46. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Gotta love him...

    He talks so much crazy schidt that he makes almost everybody else in the industry look sane.

  47. Burch


    It's my behaviour in person which causes more problems.

  48. ascasc

    Name change won't help due to facial recognition

    Changing your name/etc. won't matter. Facial recognition is here, to quote Apple: "iPhoto introduces Faces: a new feature that automatically detects and even recognizes faces in your photos. iPhoto uses face detection to identify faces of people in your photos and face recognition to match faces that look like the same person."

    So once Facebook/etc. start providing facial recognition (or third party vendors like credit bureaus/etc.) a company will simply submit a photo and your name and get back a nice report a few minutes later with your posts, online photos, etc. of all the embarrassing things you have done.

    Your shame/embarrassment will truly be forever, since the data is already out there, new ways to manipulate and interact with it can't be stopped.

  49. Chimel

    No Web 2.0 privacy

    Web 2.0 is just not there yet: There's robot.txt on traditional web sites to gently ask search engines not to index the pages where it resides, but there is no equivalent standard for social web sites, like a checkbox in your user profile to request not to be indexed by search engines.

    Of course, truant bots can always bypass this request that relies only on "good behavior", but web 1.0 and 2.0 might prevent that with proper file system or database authorization management.

    The current situation is real bad, many social sites do not even offer a basic feature to delete all traces of your account, and each of them manages privacy differently and in their own way just like they want, not like the user wants.

    With all employers now looking up your name on the Internet for job applications, it seems like a basic privacy protection measure for kids and teens to systematically use a pseudo online identity, I wouldn't even want to change it to a real ID when reaching adulthood, the same problems apply. Just saying...

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