You can probably take a guess which line gets quoted everywhere.
But, you see, what he says is basically true. As any hacker would know, privacy and security are illusionary constructs; they only exist as relative accessibility. There are so many places on the Internet that track your movement, preferences, and all that. Some use the data to design their pages better. Some use it to send you spam. Some use it to show more relevant advertisements. Some use it to enhance their own security.
What Schmidt tries to say is that everyone does it, some are required to do it. With great power comes great responsibility, and Schmidt himself is warning us that we ourselves have to be careful about what we do and who we trust.
And then the Internet population goes bonkers. Over the statement “If you have something that you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place.” Might just be me, isn’t that the same thing we’ve been told when we were all kids?
When did we “mature” to the point where we think it’s alright to misbehave and get away with it?
Illegal downloaders don’t like this because they don’t want anyone to know they’re *gasp* illegally downloading stuff, despite the multitude of free stuff that some of them champion.
Hackers don’t like this because it leaves behind footprints leading to their nefarious activities.
Anti-spam activists don’t like this because they don’t want recommendations for the latest carrot-shaped double phallus sex toy they were looking at. Well, not more than what their spam filters already get, anyway.
A lot of the people who don’t like it are doing bad things. I do bad things on the Internet, too, but this is where that judgment part comes in. “Judgment matters.”
When I’m going “shopping” on the Internet, I know the risks involved. I take certain measures to elevate my own privacy and security. I make a judgment call on whether it’s worth it or not. I think about what Google, or Microsoft, or Yahoo!, or the FBI, or the CIA, or certain media and technology industries does regarding privacy, and I act on my decision, whether it be to pursue it or not.
There isn’t any true privacy on the Internet. Some people go out into the world, the Internet, and expect anything they do to not be noticed. Without information gathering, there wouldn’t be a Google. There wouldn’t be Adsense, there wouldn’t be Gmail spam filters, there wouldn’t be Bing, there wouldn’t be Facebook, there wouldn’t be social computing.
But there will always be spam, there will always be bad advertisements, there will always be bad search results, there will always be malicious stalkers. The evil of the Internet will never go away, because there’s always corrupt companies ready to disregard all the rules.
But then there are the established that step into the spotlight to be known, the ones we hold to a higher standard. The ones that offer useful goods and services. The ones that try to make the world a better place by making things easier or more connected. They understand the risks and the responsibilities.
Now, do us Internet users understand our own risks and responsibilities, or do we just stick our head in the sand while we cry “PRIVACY!” like some mantra we only pretend to understand.
Idealism is never perfect, because we are humans. While its nice to not have to worry about someone abusing your personal data, it’s also nice to have my personal data being put to good use for my own benefit. Good companies shouldn’t be punished for misguided notions of responsibility.