Having been away from the key board I’ve been clearing through a back log of news articles. I came across a report concerning Goolge’s CEO, Eric Schmidt’s, comments about their Street View service and the public’s concern over privacy.
Telling an audience of CNN viewers, that those members of the public who have concerns about privacy as a result of Google’s Street View service, should “just move” is a monumental gaff. Even if said in jest. What makes it a monumental gaff can be broadly categorised into five areas.
1. Damage to the arguably already tarnished Google brand when it comes to privacy: Trust is integral to every brand. There is a growing concern over the intrusion into everyday life of business and government and how business can seemingly stretch the boundaries on privacy and security to breaking point and then, if they have sufficient clout, make assurances about improving their practices to appease regulators and the courts.
2. CEO’s Personal Brand: As a business leader you’re the lynch pin between the business and the society you operate within. Eric Schmidt is fast becoming known for his laxical attitude towards privacy and security. That’s fine. However it comes into conflict with Google apparent policy. One will have to change. I bet it isn’t Google.
3. The message to Google employees: Privacy and information security policy should be signed off from the very top. The CEO should set an example to follow.
4. Creating work for Google’s hard pressed PR and privacy folk: The likes of Peter Barron, at Google, must see their work to limit damage to the brand and the risk of regulatory fines unravelled, making their re-assurances become weaker and weaker.
5. Ostercise those within Google who’s role is privacy and security: If your CEO isn’t committed what’s your motivation? Aren’t you pushing water up a hill?
It is comments like Mr. Schmidt’s that provide the impetus for statements from industry leaders such as Bruce Schneier that “privacy is being sacrificed for profit.” I say that privacy is being sacrificed for more. At least 5 points more.