December 8, 2009

Certainly in the Vicinity of Evil...

I'll briefly remind that I stood up for Google when brother ac took them to task for facilitating Chinese censorship, and even when brother jg claimed their stock was overvalued.

But there is an underlying creep factor on privacy concerns. And CEO Eric Schmitt let it loose on CNBC.

Schmidt's philosophy is clear with Bartiromo in the clip below: "If you have something that you don't want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn't be doing it in the first place." The philosophy that secrets are useful mainly to indecent people is awfully convenient for Schmidt as the CEO of a company whose value proposition revolves around info-hoarding. Convenient, that is, as long as people are smart enough not to apply the "secrets suck" philosophy to their Google passwords , credit card numbers and various other secrets they need to put money in Google's pockets.

Hat-tip: Galley Slave Jonathan V. Last who says "Google = Slightly Evil?"

Google Posted by John Kranz at December 8, 2009 12:13 PM

And yet, if Tiger Woods had heeded this advice - not doing things that cause him embarrassment - then he wouldn't be in the current less-than-happy place in which he finds himself.

And had all the climate wizards at East Anglia's CRU followed that advice and not faked everything on which the climate change cult is founded, perhaps they would not be living in their predicament.

Mark Sanford, anyone? Larry Craig? At least David Carradine doesn't have to live with the shame of his private secrets in the public eye.

We live in an information age in which secrets are admittedly harder to keep - and have since the Watergate cover-up unraveled. We're watching the death of hypocrisy. In the near future, people will have to choose between living lives as admirable as their facades, or adopting Henry Ford's philosophy when he was caught in flagrate delicto and saying "Never complain, never explain."

Having said all that - yeah, really creepy. There's an element of truth to what Schmitt says (and the pastor side of me appreciates the kernel of living consistently with that), but it will be interesting to see if the tune changes when someone finds and discloses where his skeletons are buried.

Posted by: Keith at December 8, 2009 2:50 PM

Privacy qua privacy is a difficult concept -- I'll bet a stunning majority of Americans agree with Schmidt.

I am the farthest thing you're going to find from a true civil libertarian but it is extremely important to resist this defense. The same can be said against one's right to not testify, right to not register a gun, et freaking cetera.

Also pretty disturbing that a guy as smart as he is cannot lie better. “Oh, we’re very concerned about privacy…”

Posted by: jk at December 8, 2009 3:31 PM

jk: and yet a stunning segment of Americans read the tabloids, and can't go three days without the television gossip shows.

You know I have a certain perverse delight in taking the ugly side of issues, and I apologize regularly for a lot of "yes, but..." comments. I hope I don't surprise anyone by pointing out that any free-marketer would agree that the tabloids wouldn't exist without a willing customer base eager to poke their noses into other people's private lives, nor would "The Real Housewives Of [fill in the blank]".

People compartmentalize. They expect their privacy to be respected, unless there's money or a crack at American Idol in it for them. They're not ashamed of downloading porn or beating the kids (not enough to stop doing it), but they're ashamed of others knowing about them doing it. But they're eager to know about the dirt in the lives of others.

Hmm. An argument for a consistent ethos about respecting privacy - that of others as well as their own?

Perhaps my point of view stems in part from dealing with the aftermath of people enjoying their vices until they were busted for them, and the damage done to themselves and their families. I don't take issue with placing a high value on privacy - I merely add to it placing a high value on not living in such a way that requires me to live hypocritically, as I suspect you do as well.

Posted by: Keith at December 8, 2009 4:12 PM

Let me grab the two examples you offered. I believe that beating your kids is illegal and, outside of Saudi Arabia, downloading porn is not.

If one commits a crime (folks around these parts might split it further to harming others), he forfeits privacy on that issue. I don't mind the child-beater's being exposed.

Celebrities exchange their privacy for other benefits of fame. If I live to be a thousand I'll never understand the fascination. All the same, they can be photographed in public, or an enterprising ET reporter can sift through theory garbage, but even they enjoy boundaries and islands of privacy.

You can certainly do something that you would prefer not be shared that is not immoral. My real objection to Schmidt is his rejection of that.

Posted by: jk at December 8, 2009 5:08 PM | What do you think? [4]