Dear Eric: The Proper Response Is "I'm Sorry"

Since its launch two weeks ago, Google’s new Buzz service has generated a flurry of privacy concerns — concerns that have caused considerable anxiety and outrage in at least one high-profile case, and led to privacy complaints being lodged with both the Federal Trade Commission and the Canadian Privacy Commissioner. So what was Google CEO Eric Schmidt’s response? To suggest that users are overreacting, that “no one was harmed,” and to effectively blame users for misunderstanding the terms of the new service. Blaming your users — that’s pretty classy.

According to The Guardian, the Google CEO told telecom industry types attending the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona that the claims about Google publishing private information were “not true,” and that most of the problems were due to “confusion” on the part of users as to what would be publicized when they connected the service to their Gmail accounts. Although he said some of the miscommunication was Google’s fault, he added that “the important thing is that no really bad stuff” happened as a result. In other words, nothing to see here — move along.

For a guy who threw a fit when personal details about where he lives and how much money he makes were revealed — using public information sources — by a CNET writer (which resulted in a ban on contact with the publication that was later lifted), this is a pretty laissez-faire response to the concerns of Google Buzz users. And Schmidt has made similar statements about privacy before. Hey Eric — would it be so hard to just say “We’re sorry?” You can say it now, or you can tell it to the FTC.

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Post and thumbnail photos courtesy of Flickr user World Economic Forum

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