Google looks awfully petty in their dispute with CNET, and I have to admit I’ve lost some respect for what I considered a fairly progressive company. If you haven’t heard the story, Google has ceased communication for a year with media company CNET.com, after CNET reported some personal information of Google CEO Eric Schmidt, such as the fact that his shares in the company were worth $1.5 billion, that he lives in Atherton, CA, that he was the host of a $10,000-a-plate fundraiser for Al Gore’s presidential campaign, and that he is a pilot. And where did they get this information? From Google’s search engine. In retaliation, Google told a CNET editor that it will not speak with Cnet reporters until August 2006.
Apparently what’s good for the goose isn’t good for the gander. Google is strongly overreacting, and has only made the situation worse by the way they’ve handled it. “Google helps people search for this kind of information. For them to be upset that someone would publicize it is a little bit strange. It could end up backfiring on them because it gives more attention to the (privacy) problem,” said Mark Glaser, a columnist with Online Journalism Review.
Mostly, it indicates a sorry accounting on Google’s part of the privacy concerns many people have about what can be done with their search engine, a concern I’d hope they would take more seriously. But they can’t have it both ways – and good for CNET for illustrating Google’s hypocrisy.