Digital News Report – At the D9 Conference, Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher interviewed Google Chairman, Eric Schmidt, about privacy concerns with the Internet now and in the future. Schmidt had concerns about how privacy and technology could be abused, especially with facial recognition and GPS tracking.
Schmidt said that Google will continue to do anonymous search logging so long as you do not log in and tell them who you are. However, if you do log into Google, there is a privacy opt-out dashboard that will allow users to stop Google from tracking searches made by the user.
Mossberg asked what he thinks about having a comprehensive law in congress that outlines the rules with privacy on the Internet. Schmidt said that Google is generally in favor of privacy laws but it depends on the legislation. He added that privacy is a compromise between the government and its citizen.
Swisher said that Steve Jobs joked to her that the Android phone was a “probe in your pocket.” Schmidt said that they do not take the information and suck it up to Google’s search engines. Schmidt said that there is an opt-in option for tracking for some social networking apps offered by Google. In this case, a certain amount of information is sent to Google anonymously.
Mossberg asked why Google decided to have all the fire hazard symbols warnings pop up stating what access to the Android operating system would occur when installing a mobile phone app. Schmidt said the company made a decision to keep Android an open platform and that they do not curate the third party programmers software. Mossberg said that Apple is the opposite on this idea and control the third-party app developers more.
Lastly, the interviewers wanted to know what visions did Schmidt have for the future and privacy concerns. Schmidt said looking out five and ten years, he thinks that everyone will be empowered by the new technology, but it could be used for both good and evil. Schmidt was specifically very concerned about combining mobile tracking with face recognition which could be used against crowds and individuals. A dictator in general could use biometrics against their citizens he explained. Schmidt said that at one point Google developed a facial recognition technology and they decided to stop the release of the technology, because the company felt that it was dangerous.
The interviewers called him on the use of combining technology and being used on their open platform Android OS with third party developers. Since Google does not curate the mobile Android apps, they would not stop the facial recognition apps from being distributed on Android devices if it came from a third-party developer. The reason Schmidt said was that this could happen is that they have an open development with Android. He added there are plenty of apps out there that are legal that he does not like. Schmidt said that if the laws make this technology illegal, then they would not distribute it. Mossberg made mention to Google Goggles app, which lets mobile Android phones users take pictures and search the Internet for information matching the photo taken.
D9 conference is currently going on between May 31 and June 2 in Rancho Palos Verdes, California.
By Victoria Brown