Say goodbye to privacy, says Google

Google knows all about you. The company has warned that we are looking at the end of anonymity on the Web. In this striking video interview on CNBC , Schmidt says anonymity should not be confused with privacy. "Privacy is incredibly important. Privacy is not the same thing as anonymity. It's very important that Google and everyone else respect people's privacy. People have a right to privacy, it's natural, it's normal, it's the way to do things but if you are trying commit a terrible evil crime, it's not obvious that you should be able to do so with complete anonymity."

The problem with that argument is that once we lose anonymity, we lose privacy. As security specialist and writer Bruce Schneier writes, companies like Google and Facebook are actually making money out of stealing people's privacy.

Schneier writes: "Here's the problem: The very companies whose CEOs eulogize privacy make their money by controlling vast amounts of their users' information. Whether through targeted advertising, cross-selling or simply convincing their users to spend more time on their site and sign up their friends, more information shared in more ways, more publicly means more profits. This means these companies are motivated to continually ratchet down the privacy of their services, while at the same time pronouncing privacy erosions as inevitable and giving users the illusion of control … With all this privacy erosion, those CEOs may actually be right–but only because they're working to kill privacy. On the Internet, our privacy options are limited to the options those companies give us and how easy they are to find. We have Gmail and Facebook accounts because that's where we socialize these days, and it's hard–especially for the younger generation–to opt out. As long as privacy isn't salient, and as long as these companies are allowed to forcibly change social norms by limiting options, people will increasingly get used to less and less privacy. There's no malice on anyone's part here; it's just market forces in action. If we believe privacy is a social good, something necessary for democracy, liberty and human dignity, then we can't rely on market forces to maintain it."

That can mean only one thing: whether we like it or not, governments will have to bring in stricter laws to protect privacy.


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