Google Executive Chairman Eric “Uncle Creepy” Schmidt made an appearance on an NPR show, and oh boy…
On the idea of Google’s slogan (“Don’t be evil”) he had this to say:
SCHMIDT: Well, it was invented by Larry and Sergey. And the idea was that we don’t quite know what evil is, but if we have a rule that says don’t be evil, then employees can say, I think that’s evil. Now, when I showed up, I thought this was the stupidest rule ever, because there’s no book about evil except maybe, you know, the Bible or something.
There is so much gold here. ” Woah, woah, woah, that ain’t my rule. I don’t know what evil really is. I think they made the rule as an easy way for anyone to veto something we are doing. Either way it is a dumb rule because the only way to know what is evil is to read the Bible and given that I don’t know what evil is — you can guess I’ve never read that book.”
Now, Schmidt, went on about “evil”:
So what happens is, I’m sitting in this meeting, and we’re having this debate about an advertising product. And one of the engineers pounds his fists on the table and says, that’s evil. And then the whole conversation stops, everyone goes into conniptions, and eventually we stopped the project. So it did work.
This is good, I suppose, that Google was able to control itself — but how’d they actually shut it down if Schmidt doesn’t even know what evil is? My guess: Schmidt doesn’t like how arbitrary the definition of evil truly is.
So Google was willing to kill an advertising product by citing the “evil rule”, but build in access to Gmail which would allow ERIC FREAKING SCHMIDT to read your email if he wanted? Sure…
SAGAL: Mountain View. And they’ve got this screen up that shows, like, Google searches right now, things that people are typing into the search engine, so you know. If you wanted to, could you just flip a switch on your office computer and just, like, read my emails just for the hell of it?
SCHMIDT: Yes, and I would lose my job, be fired, and be sued to death.
I’m not foolish enough to have assumed Google didn’t have access to my email, but it seems absurd that one person in the company could just access it like nothing — which is exactly what is being implied here. The idea that it’s this easy is just nuts.
And yes, Apple has suspicious shit going on in the privacy area too, but how the hell should anyone feel comfortable using Gmail if any top-executive can just pull up their email on a laptop?