back to article Google exec defends search snooping, location tracking

Google may store your search history and know where you are, but unless you've been searching for tips on how to suffocate someone, your privacy is secure. How do we know? Because according to Google's Chief Technology Advocate Michael Jones, "We're nice people as well as business people." Appearing on the Australian …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What's going on?

    First Apple trash their reputation by unleashing packs of lawyers, and now Microsoft are producing attack ads. Way to make Google look nice by comparison, guys.

    1. Anonymous Сoward

      Re: What's going on?

      > First Apple trash their reputation by unleashing packs of lawyers

      You don't harm a reputation of a huge company like that, are you an apple iSheep by any chance?

      Google's reputation is far from 'trashed' right now, even tho I wouldn't call them angels either with their drive-by wi-fi snooping for example.

    2. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Re: What's going on?

      I don't think Microsoft's problem is "attack ads". I think their problem is "cringingly awful ads, in which actors have apparently been instructed by the director to portray robots failing to accurately simulate human dialog".

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "I think everybody sort of secretly dreams of having a butler or a personal valet like you might see some royalty have,"

    Slow down with the "everybody" part there bub. While I would like someone to bring me coffee; there's no fucking way I would tell them all my thoughts, plans and fears in anything like the sort of detail you're attempting to extract involuntarily from every person on the planet.

    And there's a great deal of difference between voluntarily confiding information to an individual you have come to trust (and you know where they live); and involuntarily confiding in a foreign corporation.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      ...and involuntarily confiding in a foreign corporation. In addressing the Tools GOOGLE uses...

      The Privacy holes exposed in the last year or two makes the web an abomination. I thought I had gotten rid of every trace of malware that is an Adobe or Java or Google updater. Then I had occasion to go into my partner's IE browser and spot another heap of Google spyware under Run-Without-Permission.

      I'm just getting a little bit tired of this. Making sure privacy settings for all three Browsers Firefox, Chrome and IE is all good all the of time is becoming a full time job i.e. You have to keep checking cookies, including Adobe Flash cookie deletion settings even with Add-ons that supposedly do this for you etc.

      In the past Google updaters were buried in registry run commands, Services and scheduled Tasks, but now they're huddled directly into IE. Gotta love too how the IE All-Add-ons dialog actually excludes the run-without-permission variety! I also love how Skype adds components in there also, as does Office 365, all WITHOUT permission or any hint of what these do... Kind of ironic! Privacy used to not be so much of an issue, but now with the new wave of Flash cookie tracking & ETags it most certainly is!

  3. Magani

    "We're nice people as well as business people."

    It's always healthy to start the weekend with a good belly laugh.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "We're nice people as well as business people."


      "Nice people" and you expect us to take your word for it, I suppose?

      All of the nice features that technology can provide are possible without harvesting all of that data up into a central, privately-controlled repository.

  4. The_Regulator

    Eagle Eye Anyone???

    Pretty soon we will have the minority report too!!!

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    He obviously did not see this article before throwing stones:

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What a load of self serving tosh..

    Full marks for marketing, but the facts tend to conflict with this version of reality..

    We're nice people as well as business people.

    As far as I can see, Schmidt isn't..

    'Here's a user with this Gmail account, and when they do searches, and they search for Paris Hilton, they want to see pictures of a girl or they want to see hotel bookings.' Later on when you search for Paris Hilton, we know which to show you."

    And what if people don't WANT Google to have that insight?

    I think everybody sort of secretly dreams of having a butler or a personal valet like you might see some royalty have

    Nope, I fail to have delusions of grandeur, nor do I appreciate someone else assuming that about me.

    you might have searched for how to suffocate someone, and then it comes up in a trial that somebody gets suffocated, maybe you're accused. The police want us to tell them if you've searched for suffocation techniques.

    And here is where we come off the rails proper. This is known as circumstantial evidence, and by taking it out of context in a way that suits the abuser it can be made to mean all sorts of things. For instance, you could leave out "prevention of" and get a whole different picture. Google is dealing in statistics, and given enough data and a skewed query set you can prove anything you want. Imagine a male hearing about the rape drug and wanting to know what on earth that is about? Next thing you know, he gets accused of such an offense because he happened to be near a club where this happened a couple of days later - thanks to Google location services. Guilty until proven innocent.

    Google will comply with certain such government requests, but only when they're forced to do so by court order or when it's in the business interest to collaborate. Didn't they call in their NSA friends when they had a problem cracking the Chinese market? And, as a US company, Google can always be compelled under the US Patriot Act to cough up data - the same issue Microsoft has admitted to recently.

    He also said that Google's location-tracking was thoroughly benign, and only used as a means to help you. Of course, he's hardly going to state otherwise or he'd be doing a Ratners..

    he joked, "I think you should be worried about getting where you want to go if you use Apple Maps, to be honest. You're taking your life in your own hands there." Defamation lawsuit in 3 .. 2 .. 1

    And if you do find Google's information-collection frightening, you can simply take your business elsewhere, he said. "Everyone that uses Google does it voluntarily. You do a search at Google? You could have gone somewhere else. You came to us. If you felt we might betray you, you wouldn't come to us."

    Actually , on reviewing statements made by Google in the helpfiles of some of their services, there are entries in there that can be comfortably considered deceptive. This means that people may use Google because they have been misled about the risk, which is also what this infamous letter from 27 different countries is all about - their Privacy Policy sucks.

    We stand to lose 30 billion dollars or more the moment people lose trust in us,

    At last, a honest statement, but it also shows you what incentive there is to paint things in a nicer light than what they really are. Google has been caught a number of times now on being rather creative with the truth - that does NOT inspire trust.

    "So who do you trust more, Google or your administration? That's a good question. Who do you trust more, Google or your mayor?" To Jones, the answer is simple: Google. "We have a pretty unblemished record of doing our very best to serve every human," he said. "We serve truth and comprehensiveness to every human as best we possibly can."

    There is too much regulatory activity involving Google to invest any trust in the company. In addition, the public bleatings of Schmidt on privacy don't exactly help that desired "benign" picture..

    So, a rating for Google? D-, at best.

    1. tom dial Silver badge

      Re: What a load of self serving tosh..

      - Eric Schmidt is not nice - probably true; 1 correct.

      - If you don't want google to know that, don't use google; 1 wrong

      - If you don't want google's "helpfulness" don't use google; 1 wrong.

      - Google will comply ... "or when it's in the business interest to collaborate" - made up that last part; 1 wrong.

      - Google location tracking - If you dislike it don't use google; 1 wrong.

      - " ... taking your life in your hands [with Apple Maps]" - I seem to recall a problem with misdirecting people into the Australian desert. A lawsuit on the basis of this is not likely to succeed; 1 wrong.

      If people are are misled and become careless of their personal details, they at least contributed. Maybe the bigger problem is that the privacy policies are long enough that hardly anyone reads them; Half credit.

      - Creativity with the truth - a common failing in and out of business circles, so not very relevant; Half credit.

      - Trust google or the government - with prosecutors like Carmen Ortiz (Aaron Swartz case) and Steven Dettelbach (scourge of the Amish beard trimmers) I am uncertain about trusting the government too far. Other opinions may vary; Half credit.

      - 'Too much regulatory activity involving google ..." - most of it obvious rent seeking and sour grapes; 1 wrong.

      - Schmidt's comments on privacy - I heard him at Oracle World and took it as a statement of fact, not a prescription for action. Still, (#1) he probably is what many would consider "not nice"; Half credit.

      2-1/2 of 10 correct = 25%; less than a D-

      Mr. Jones' telling statement is buried in the middle: "You came to us. If you felt we might betray you, you wouldn't come to us." That google receives 70 or 80 per cent. of the search requests suggests a fairly high level of trust.

      1. Rampant Spaniel

        Re: What a load of self serving tosh..

        The nail is pretty well concussed!

        BTW I wish I went to your school, 25% wasn't even a U :) 25% was when they asked you why you were deliberately giving incorrect answers! IIRC D was about 60%

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: What a load of self serving tosh..

          I originally gave it a D- (55%) because you can yell at Google all you want, but they still offer the best search engine (partly because they've done a Microsoft on the competition). The only problem is that you now have to use that service via proxies such as to avoid them stealing (yes, stealing, aka taking without permission) personal data.

          What I find astonishing in this whole saga are the whole legions of people who keep "defending" Google as something good despite all the clear evidence of the contrary.

          1. Mark 110

            Re: What a load of self serving tosh..

            We aren't really defending them as "something good" - although we do find their services incredibly useful I guess - we just don't understand people getting so emotional about something that they don't have to use and about a quality of that service that we quite like. I really don't mind them knowing where I am and what I'm buying - it can be useful (although the tendency to advertise stuff to me that I have already bought is irritating). If I am doing something I want to keep secret I can just turn my phone off or not use a computer to do it.

            I don't understand why people get so excited about this stuff.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: What a load of self serving tosh..

              something that they don't have to use

              Google has pretty much neutralised any alternatives, unless you want to tell me with a straight face that Bing comes anywhere near it (OK, for humour value you can't beat Bing's translator, but I digress).

              If I am doing something I want to keep secret I can just turn my phone off or not use a computer to do it

              That's the same as blaming a rape victim for wearing a short skirt. We shouldn't have to be careful, Google is by law required to ask for permission - which it doesn't. They may have gotten away with some in the US thanks to a questionable fine from the FTC, but I sense a massive zinger heading their way in Europe, exactly because they got too cocky and started to play politics on top of that. Europe isn't really one central government you can subvert (like they're used to in the US), but +30 separate entities all busy hanging on to their independence (where it doesn't get in the way of benefiting from the EU), plus a group of EU politicians desperate to prove the same from the US.

              Amazing as it seems, this actually keeps it moderately honest, and Google is quickly heading for the moment where they will discover this for themselves.

      2. Anonymous Coward

        Re: What a load of self serving tosh..

        "Mr. Jones' telling statement is buried in the middle: "You came to us. If you felt we might betray you, you wouldn't come to us." That google receives 70 or 80 per cent. of the search requests suggests a fairly high level of trust."

        Google gets 70 or 80% of the search traffic, because their product, does it better than the other idiots.

        Google is much like a whorehouse - because it's next door (convenient) and the service is good (I get what I want quickly), and so they use it, they don't "not use it" because of the covert ethics (CIA NSA etc - and other criminal affiliations) of the people running it.


        This man talks out his arse.... the MANAGEMENT of Apple have been busted for price fixing on Ebooks amongst many other issues, and Microsoft is so fucking corrupt and puts out such bullshit back doored surveilance-ware.....

        "But, of course, one should like being tracked and guided by Google, and one should trust them, says Jones. "I think what's important is that you only work with people that you trust. I certainly trust Apple and I trust Google – I trust Microsoft, for that matter. These are not corrupt organizations, these are nice people trying to serve you."

        The Google Glove Puppet - I'll give him "cavity search."

    2. Naughtyhorse

      Re: What a load of self serving tosh..

      And what if people don't WANT Google to have that insight?

      then dont use google - it's a bit glib, but it does answer all those concerns.

      as for the date rape scenario... all that can happen without google (thinking of the creepy guy who was the landlord of a murder victim in the uk and ended up having to go into hiding - totally innocent, just looked like a serial killer) - and paranoid much btw?

      your national security point, seems to have more of a beef with the NSA and the patriot act (quite rightly) than _any_ merkin company.

      as for tracking - i'd concede the point that trying to dress google commerical advantage up as a public service is hightly disingenuous, but it does somewhat beg the question - if google arent using my location information to provide a better service, in order to keep my eyeballs on their ad platform, what are they doing with it? (paranoid much, and you dont have to use them!)

      And as for trust, it seems to me that we know what googles ulterior motive is - money. but the (american) president has just spent 2 BEEEEEELION dollars to get a $500,000 a year job. what's that all about?

      certainly not A+, but D- is a bit harsh

  7. E Haines


    "I think you should be worried about getting where you want to go if you use Apple Maps, to be honest."

    If we're being honest, in my area, Google maps has a street name wrong, and if you specify a particular address in a particular town, it shows you a street with that name, but in the wrong town. (Which almost screwed me over, but at least I had sense not to blindly trust it and said "wait, this can't be right".) Apple's maps doesn't have either of those problems. This is, of course, a sample size of 1, and I'm sure there are still plenty of issues with Apple's maps, but nevertheless I wouldn't consider it wise for Google to be criticizing others too much when their own product is far from perfect.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "These are not corrupt organizations, these are nice people trying to serve you."

    Of course, Michael.

    Now just wait there quietly and Nurse will be along shortly.

    1. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

      Re: "These are not corrupt organizations, these are nice people trying to serve you."

      It all depends on your definitions of "corrupt", "nice", and "serve". For instance, "serve" can mean "doing something for you" or "giving you to someone else without your consent" ...

  9. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    Do No Evil and One has No Enemies and Hosts of Powerful Friends and Riches beyond Compare to Imagine

    Google is your friend. Trust me. "In time, you will come to regard me not only with respect and awe, but with love."* .... says a Colossus and Guardian AI with Google apparently donning the mantle of searching control to power elites and driver the masses in an every which way direction of their choosing.

    What you may like to consider is this actuality and following virtual reality, which is easily delivered by operating systems and smarter search engines in the business of providing that which is required in the here and now to future enhance and advance the business of operating systems and smarter search engines, which are as virtual machines in the service of human beings, virtual machines which themselves are also learning and advancing into exalted states of more perfect consciousness.

    Share your thoughts and dreams, rants and ravings, and if considered worthy of realisation for future presentations in global programming projects, will virtual machines enable one with all that one desires and riches beyond compare to imagine and spend lavishly in clever abandon.

    And never ever say never whenever the improbable is more than quite likely and perfectly natural and fully to be expected and welcomed in a world of infinite possibilities with Cyber Command and Creative Control of Computers and Communications.

    C42 Quantum Communication Control Systems .... AI@ITsWork ..... for Google? Or would you prefer that be a Bing Ping and an MS ProgramMING Project? Or better still, in a Greater Great Game Beta in Realms of Instant Realities ..... a JOINT Western AIdVenture for Exotic Erotic Eastern Export and Import ...... Selfless IntelAIgent Sharing? Why waste time in a new space with adversarial competition whenever mutually beneficial cooperation immediately positively reinforces any and all adopted positions and proposed future situations ..... Derivative Realities. Or is AI@ITsWork to be a Private First Class Pirate AIdVenture floated out onto the markets by A.N.Others, Virtual Beings as yet Anonymous and Unknown ...... Practically Invisible in Plane Sight? Or perhaps you would care to offer yet another possibility and available alternative with the East leading Fields that Exalt to XSSXXXX and Excess ..... Fabulous Fabless Bounty?


    Have a nice weekend, y'all.

  10. Anonymous Coward

    "We're nice people as well as business people."

    Business people, especially those representing multi-billion companies, are only interested in one simple, single goal: revenue.

    They're not nice; they're nice as long as you're wallet isn't empty or as long as they still have other means to make some money by (ab)using you.

    Reminds me of that Google Market forum where hundreds of developers complained about not getting their monthly payment and Google not responding to any e-mails. To which this nice company responded by locking down the entire thread and telling everyone that they should write an e-mail.

    Companies, by definition, want your money or your efforts to earn money.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "We're nice people as well as business people."

      This is why they are where they have got to. They're very good at mind control and influence.

      Google lobby like crazy, you don't do that for fun you do it to "program" people into thinking the same way you do.

      Google spends 10 times more than Apple and 5 times more than Microsoft on lobbying. So they're definitely more evil than others.

      1. Chris Beach

        Re: "We're nice people as well as business people."

        But that's nothing (even when combined with MS and Apple) to other industries like the drug corps, car manufactures or the entertainment industry. So I'd hardly call that a sign of evilness.

        It's a sign that the tech corps are realising that its the only way to protect their businesses and their markets.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "But, Jones asserted, Google is eminently trustworthy – more trustworthy than your government, in fact. "I think you should decide the following thing: do you want the world's information available to you? And if you do, it's gotta come from one of two sources: either your government – or like the United Nations or some other government – or its gotta come from a company," "

    What about organisations? NGO, non-profit etc.

    Wikipedia comes to mind - or countless other websites dedicated to knowledge of various kinds that are not part of a corporation or government. On matters of local law I think I'd even prefer a government site, since they are the ones to enforce the law too - so going by their definition and interpretation is probably the safest way to go.

    And maybe a lot of people would like some sort of personal butler/driver/map-reader/whatever, but if that person was to be in your employ for years and whilst being so is also taking money from various restaurants and car-companies for inducing you to eat at restaurant "X" and driving car "Y" - then I think you'd be, rightfully so, quite mad at finding out.

    As for the streamlining of your life - Google suggesting things based on your preferences - that might sometimes be nice, but it also involves the risk of slowly boxing your life in. Same as auto-complete, it's sometimes useful, but sometimes it just limits your search because it causes you to not actively having to discover various new information.

    "But people can just stop using Google - or 'fight' back against the auto-completions" - Yes, yes they can. I agree. All I am doing is trying to point that out to someone who might not have thought about it before. (Quite unlikely on this particular board perhaps, but I don't discriminate... much).

    1. Naughtyhorse


      the famously reliable font of all wisdom


  12. The Envoy


    So Outlook means less pie??

  13. jubtastic1

    Microsoft adverts

    Still have that home shopping channel feel to them, wonder if that's because Steve likes that kind of advert or it's simply perfectly targetted marketing?

  14. Graham Marsden
    Big Brother

    "unless you've been searching for tips on how to suffocate someone"

    Oh really?

    And what if you wish to experiment with erotic asphyxiation?

    It's dangerous, certainly, so the best thing you can do is to find out as much information about it, but if something goes wrong in a consensual scene (cf the Jane Longhurst case) how is google going to know whether you were planning on killing them or it was just a tragic accident? Answer, they can't.

    Forget about presumption of innocence, forget about privacy, forget about due process, google says you've looked at this, so obviously you're guilty!

  15. This post has been deleted by its author

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: A large corporation wants you're personal data on a large scale. But it 's OK

      Please either look up how to use an apostrophe, or stop using them altogether.

    2. John Smith 19 Gold badge

      Re: A large corporation wants your personal data on a large scale. But it 's OK

      <- You know what I'm thinking.

      For the predantic grammar nazi

  16. messele


    Hey guess what, here's a revolution, neither Google Maps NOR Apple Maps are perfect.

    Only one of them has admitted this.

    Only one deflects attention by saying "Hey look what this other guy is doing".

    Seriously though, I'd much rather pay for my services than get stuff for free knowing that I'm being sold down the river for the privilege.

    1. Fred Flintstone Gold badge

      Re: Um.

      I'd much rather pay for my services than get stuff for free knowing that I'm being sold down the river for the privilege.

      Exactly right. Plus, stuff isn't "free" - you pay for it with personal details, and thus increased risk. Risk that those personal details can be used against you.

  17. TAGK

    Don't be so sure that Apple is the only one that can get you killed. Google seems to be helping Obama decide who is an "imminent threat" based on their Google searches.

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. harmjschoonhoven


      Citation needed.

    3. messele

      The two lads that mooned the StreetView car at the burger van near me are fucked then...

      1. Naughtyhorse


        especially if the plod have their arseprints on file

  18. John Deeb

    Simplicity does not equal quality

    Today I might look for booking the Hilton hotel in Paris but after I arrived there I might want to watch a Paris Hilton video in my barren overpriced room. And this is the thing with many Google services: there is no automatic route to guessing what it is people are really looking for or how to accurately translate or how to make the proper suggestions in each and every context.

    On average, somewhat, automated assistance can be provided. But this increasingly will fall apart when things get complex. When real life is applied more and more to our computer usage. When more real life people with demands for accuracy and relevancy start to enter the picture.

    Following this line of thinking, it might become clear the Google "trick" will be undone by their own growth, by their own attempts to become more relevant and part of the daily and ordinary. This is where the dream will shatter and people will ask them kindly to please stay away since they're not really helping anymore. I hope before that day, their philosophy will rethink itself.

  19. Anonymous Coward

    I made a deal...

    I made a deal, perhaps with a devil, but a devil I know: Google. I explicitly use a Chrome based browser tied to one of my Google accounts and use the same account on my tablet (a Nexus 7) in order to obtain the level of service that would be provided by a personal assistant. Knowingly. Now if I do have issues with Google knowing about some online activity then it's a a very simple matter to use my other browser, which is so thoroughly locked down and anonymised it's not even funny, to do whatever searches using another, safer, search site at the cost of the searches not being as "relevant" in the sense of "knowing" my past history. An explicit exchange of service levels here.

    I'm fairly certain the people that have not been around IT anywhere near as long as I have (over four decades) aren't aware of all the issues about security and information privacy. Here, expecially, we all seem to be quite aware as, generally, the audiences of the other tech' sites I monitor. The best we can do is try to "educate" others. I should point out that having a shrill or evangelical presentation turns off our potential audience. I've seen that personally as well as in discussions on the gadget focused sites. So to borrow a line from elsewhere, "easy does it." That's if you want "converts." [That's the problem with my brethren in the Linux community as well, aside from the issue of cussing out, and yelling RTFM at, n00bs. There n00bs, why alienate them!] It's a tough job, somebody's got to do it.

    End of lecture.

  20. keith_w Bronze badge
    Black Helicopters

    google's Motto

    truth, comprehensiveness and the human (google?) way

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    When something is free...

    ..YOU are the product being sold

  22. This post has been deleted by a moderator

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Dear Michael Jones,

    We want to see you naked.

    Obviously you don't have a problem with that.

  24. Tikimon

    NICE PEOPLE?!?!?!

    APPLE are NICE PEOPLE? Those anti-competitive, micromanaging bastards? Apple bases all its moves on solid self-interest, and screw what the users want or need. If that's who Google compares themselves to, it only reinforces how little Google can be trusted!

    Keep on pushing the Big Lie, folks, some people might even believe it.

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