Yahoo, Verizon, Sprint, and others have recently come under fire for sharing customer data with the authorities, and admitting to "spying" abilities that would "shock" and "confuse" customers.
A CNBC interview with Google CEO Eric Schmidt suggests the search giant Google shouldn't get off easy, and users should be wary of what Google knows about them -- and with whom they can share that information.
CNBC's Mario Bartiromo asked CEO Schmidt in her December 3, 2009 interview: "People are treating Google like their most trusted friend. Should they?"
Schmidt's reply hints that if there's scandalous information out there about you, it's your problem, not Google's.
Schmidt tells Baritoromo:
If you have something that you don't want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn't be doing it in the first place.
He expands on his answer, adding that the your information could be made available not only to curious searchers or prying friends, but also to the authorities, and that there's little recourse for people worried about unintentionally "oversharing" online:
But if you really need that kind of privacy, the reality is that search engines, including Google, do retain this information for some time. And [...] we're all subject, in the US, to the Patriot Act, and it is possible that that information could be made available to the authorities.
Leaked documents revealing Yahoo's guide for law enforcement officials, which explains how they can obtain consumer data, highlights the type of information internet companies may have about their users -- and can share with the authorities.
Silicon Alley Insider notes,
For example, Yahoo's document helpfully alerts law enforcement that if they'd like to read a user's instant messanger logs, they better ask within 45 days and come bearing a 2703(d) order. That is, unless there's "imminent danger of death or serious physical injury." If that's the case, there's another letter to fax entirely
See a video clip of Schmidt's below.