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FTC Commissioner Takes Issue With Schmidt, Buzz

"Could not disagree more" with CEO and believes launch was "irresponsible"

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FTC Commissioner Pamela Jones Harbour will leave the agency next month, but that’s almost surely not soon enough for Google.  Today, Harbour criticized Eric Schmidt and the rollout of Buzz, and also asked her colleagues to adopt a tougher stance on some privacy-related offenses.

In fairness to both Google and Harbour, other companies and products, including Facebook, Flickr, and Hotmail, were identified as problematic.  Plus, the commissioner could have been much harsher.  A speech she gave during a privacy roundtable didn’t go at all well for Google, though.

In reference to Schmidt’s infamous "if you have something that you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place" remark, Harbour stated, "Speaking for the last time as a regulator, let me be very clear: I could not disagree more with that assertion.  Privacy is a fundamental right that people do care about."

She later added, "The recent launch of Google Buzz was, quite frankly, irresponsible conduct by a company like Google. . . .  Google consistently tells the public to ‘just trust us,’ and has adopted as a company motto, ‘Do no evil.’  We have high expectations for Google as a corporate citizen.  But for me, based on my observations, I do not believe that consumer privacy played any significant role in the release of Buzz."

Then here’s the last quote we promised: Harbour said, "I would like to see the Commission take the position of intolerance toward companies that push the privacy envelope, then backtrack and modify their offerings after facing consumer and regulator backlash."

Google could be in a fair amount of trouble if the FTC chooses to adopt all these viewpoints as its own.

FTC Commissioner Takes Issue With Schmidt, Buzz
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  • http://www.onlinelessonreviews.com Mark

    Way to go Harbour for telling it like it is.

    Go get ‘em FTC!

  • http://blackbooksblog.com X

    “if you have something that you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place” . . .

    George Orwell: “In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.”

  • http://www.theokaynetowrk.com Adsense Publisher

    See, Schmidt has a point but it does not apply well with regards to the internet.

    In public, I would 100% agree, as you never know who’s watching.
    So maybe it’s not a good idea to walk around nude in your own backyard.

    First I hate how Schmidt keeps on saying “just trust us”.

    Enron, Worldcom, and Bernie Madhoff, to name but a few, is why nobody is just going to trust that easily

    Anybody doing the “trust us” mantra is going to make people trust even less and be more skeptical.

    Second, and more importantly, we are trusting Google with our information. We gladly give it to them in return for privacy. Privacy should have been their top priority, and based on what I saw, and others saw, it apparently was not.

  • Concerned About Google

    I don’t know how you can say that “If you are concerned about something getting out than you should not be doing that in the first place” I guess if someone contracted AIDS as a result of being raped. It would be OK for google to out the fact that the individual was in a support group for HIV and AIDS sufferers. I think not.

  • Ima Bore

    My private life is no one else’s business. When I share things personal I don’t want the corporate giants eavesdropping. Thank you Commissioner Harbour for recognizing this concern and speaking out. I hope the FCC acts on your recommendations.

  • dlsweb

    Didn’t public response take care of things?
    It is the marketplace that makes or breaks companies. Let it decide.