Google knows what you watch, what you search, and even with whom you're friends. The availability of all this information raises an important question: Where does Google CEO Eric Schmidt stand on the issue of online privacy?
Schmidt has previously said, "If you have something that you don't want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn't be doing it in the first place."
In a more recent interview with CNBC conducted at the Techonomy conference earlier this month, Schmidt offered an additional look at his views on online privacy and anonymity.
Speaking on a panel at the event, Schmidt argued that anonymity on the Internet is dangerous. "In a world of asynchronous threats, it is too dangerous for there not to be some way to identify you," he said.
Schmidt took the stance that governments may eventually put an end to anonymity. "We need a [verified] name service for people," he said. "Governments will demand it."
He expanded on his thoughts in a separate interview.
"Privacy is incredibly important," he said, adding, "Privacy is not the same thing as anonymity. It's very important that Google and everyone else respects people's privacy. People have a right to privacy; it's natural; it's normal. It's the right way to do things."
However, there should be limits, he said: "[I]f you are trying to commit a terrible, evil crime, it's not obvious that you should be able to do so with complete anonymity. There are no systems in our society which allow you to do that. Judges insist on unmasking who the perpetrator was. So absolute anonymity could lead to some very difficult decisions for our governments and our society as a whole and I don't think we want that either."
He additionally noted, "People aren't ready for the technology revolution that's going to happen to them."
According to a report in the Wall Street Journal, Google has been struggling and "soul searching" to answer the question: "How far should it go in profiting from its crown jewels--the vast trove of data it possesses about people's activities?" A leaked vision statement reveals the company is grappling with what it should do with the data it has about its users.
What do you think of Schmidt's comments? Are they worrisome? Reassuring? Do you agree or disagree and why? Tell us in the comments below.