I'm getting tired of this story. It was amusing for a minute or two, but seems to have stuck around far, far longer than it should have.

Jason Shellen is right.

There is a difference between public data and publicising data.

And the sort of people writing about this on their blogs and news sites should really understand the difference.

Please, lay off Google and this non-story.

Posted by jzawodn at August 06, 2005 09:49 AM

Reader Comments
# anonymous said:

Jeremy, your comments on your blog reveal that you either work for Google, own stock, or know someone who works at Google. Your bias is strong.

And no offense, but you don't know a thing about first ammendment rights and journalistic ethics. Publicising information is different that public information.... ya, right. You're hanging on to a stupid idea, and it's making you look stupid as you parrot it.

Stick to what you know, and what you know isn't journalism. Sorry dude, but when you get on staff at the New York Times, then I'll be willing to hear you expound about this topic. But not before then.

The reason people are unhappy with Google is because they value a free press and the free flow of ideas. I for one will not be shutting up any time soon about this.

on August 6, 2005 10:19 AM
# Derek said:

I gotta say, you're dead wrong on this one. It's not a "non-story" at all. Google doesn't want to concern themselves with the privacy implications of their search engine. OK, that's fine. It's all public data. But they've got a helluva lot of balls for sanctioning a reporter to use *their* service to gather public information about their management, and collating that data together for an article.

The reporter didn't do *ANYTHING* different than Google themselves does: Gather data from various sources and make it available to others. If the Google Cabal wants to paint this reporter as evil, they darned well have to accept that label for themselves as well.

on August 6, 2005 10:34 AM
# Jeremy Zawodny said:

anonymous:

I work for Yahoo and own Google stock. What does that make me? Confused? ;-)

I haven't said a word about journalism. But if the folks at Google decide not to talk with CNet, then so be it. Are you telling me they don't have the right to do it?

on August 6, 2005 10:39 AM
# Jeremy Zawodny said:

Derek:

"If the Google Cabal wants to paint this reporter as evil, they darned well have to accept that label for themselves as well."

Fine with me.

But I'm still sick of hearing about it. And that was, after all, my point. :-)

on August 6, 2005 10:40 AM
# Mike said:

I wasn't aware that this story was the latest preoccupation of the blogosphere until you blogged about it. Of course I pay very little attention to them.

on August 6, 2005 11:22 AM
# Snoopy for President said:

I read your blog regularly and quite like most of what you write. But I really think you should not take sides on this story. I think the CNet story is very germane - privacy is the cornerstone of Western Democracy. Sooner or later, the implications will not only be financial but also political - leading to a breakdown of our democratic form of government. You don't have to be a history student to see how it has played out in so many nations over the years.

I think it's a good idea to publicize all publicly available data about captains of our industry to drive the privacy issue home and make them hurt the way it hurts the common man.

on August 6, 2005 11:27 AM
# Hashim said:

"But if the folks at Google decide not to talk with CNet, then so be it. Are you telling me they don't have the right to do it?"

Sure they have a "right" to shun a news org, but bloggers have a right to talk about it, too.

"Please, lay off Google and this non-story"

It's a story because a company that is all about the free flow of information, is trying to block information. Why? Because their service was used to publisize info about their employee! Sounds like a story to me!

on August 6, 2005 11:55 AM
# Tom said:

OK, my opinion on this is pretty simple, regardless of what the original reporter did or how mad Google's management is about it, stone walling them is unacceptable to me.

In a nation with a free press, it's the press' job to push the envelope and reveal to the public what the public doesn't have the time/money to find out themselves.

This pushing has and will continue to make companies/governments want nothing more than to shut the press out (which is in their best interest).

Our job, as people in a free society, is to stick up for the press when companies try to do this and force those companies to capitulate. If we donít, we are in effect forfeiting our right to have a free press.

So, imho, bloggers should not only continue to harp on this but to do everything they can to make the noise on this so loud that Google has to back down.

on August 6, 2005 12:06 PM
# Daniel Brandt said:

Jeremy says: "I work for Yahoo and own Google stock. What does that make me?"

It makes you out-of-touch, due to your expectation that anyone will value your opinion on an issue in which you are massively self-interested. A person who is less out-of-touch would avoid all comment on social issues that pertain to search engines, unless such comment is accompanied by a clear disclaimer that points out that you work for Yahoo and own stock in Google (what, you missed Baidu?).

In fact, Yahoo should require as much from their search-engine employees who blog about search engines. I know this info is available on your site if one searches for it, but I'm thinking in terms of a disclaimer box next to every post you put up that has to do with search engines.

I object to how you slammed a respected social activist a few months ago who had something to say about Google when asked by a reporter. You put this person's name in your page title along with a slur on this person's reputation, and now it sits relatively high in the rankings on Yahoo and Google in a search for that person's name. When this is deliberate, it's called "namebombing." Was it deliberate? I think so.

You could be more careful, at least until such time that Yahoo and Google rank blogs down in the gutter where many of them belong.

on August 6, 2005 12:36 PM
# Jeffrey McManus said:

So there are really two issues here, the alleged privacy issue and how they are dealing with news.com. People can debate the privacy thing forever, but I'm a lot more interested in how they chose to deal with News.com.

Boycotting a news-gathering organization is a very unusual tactic, particularly for a public company. And there's a reason for that -- it's not only thick-headed and nasty, it is ineffective. It is the bluntest possible instrument you can use in response to bad PR. The only thing it can possibly accomplish is to draw more attention to the reason for the boycott, which appears to be happening in this case.

on August 6, 2005 12:49 PM
# josh elman said:

Choosing to "ignore" a news organization is one of those beginning signs of hubris. Er, maybe not even a beginning sign. When an article is published that shows how much public data can be found about your own CEO with your own tools, that should point more to irony rather than offense. When Google's response is to be 'offended' and deny further contact with the news organization, it just shows how completely they are missing the point.

on August 6, 2005 01:07 PM
# James said:

Mr. high-and-mighty anonymous commenter: I suggest you re-read the First "ammendment" (and learn how to spell, too). Journalists don't have a right to force people to talk to them.

Mr. Brandt: would you please add a clear disclaimer regarding your position on Google, and do the same whenever you post comments about Google in the future? If you think Jeremy ought to have a disclaimer, then for consistency's sake I think you ought to as well.

on August 6, 2005 01:19 PM
# Joe Beaulaurier said:

JZ - May I be so bold as to paraphrase: This is being blogged ad nauseum and now that over-blogging has become tiresome, regardless of which side of the fence you're on.

on August 6, 2005 02:18 PM
# Jeremy Zawodny said:

Joe:

Well said. :-)

on August 6, 2005 03:21 PM
# Marlene Jaeckel said:

My first response to the hoopla was that CNET's reporter did not reveal anything that's not readily available in Hoovers or LexisNexis.

However, I have to agree with Jeremy and Jason: there's a fundamental difference between knowing where and how to locate public records and sharing the data it contains.

What exactly is/was the point of using a company's own technology to disclose information about one of its chief officers?

To show it can be done? (Um, we knew that already.)
To get a company like Google to admit and reveal inherent flaws in their data collection, retention and privacy protection practices to a *journalist*? (Ain't gonna happen.)

Putting a moratorium on communication with a news organization is a bold move, but perhaps a necessary one. In my opinion, as humble as it may be, I believe Ms. Mills' story had a certain "stick your tongue out at Google" quality.

After all, it's not like Google has ever asked any of its users to reveal information they're not comfortable with. There are always options to not use that set of technology and remain anonymous with respect to the functionality that you're using on Google.

Finally, to my knowledge, there's never been a major privacy breach on any of the major search engines. This tells me the privacy concern is more than likely overblown.

on August 6, 2005 03:36 PM
# Dave McClure said:

sorry jeremy, have to agree with jeffrey & josh on this one (hmm... everyone named starting with 'J' ?!@?)

i'd say the article was only slightly borderline out of line, and otherwise mostly on target about a very important issue (data privacy, and the securing & protection thereof).

whether or not publishing rather obvious data about the CEO's finances (or that he has a wife who lives in atherton -- heavens to murgatroyd, the *audacity* !) is viewed as overstepping boundaries, i hardly think it justifies the response.

penalizing a public news agency with a 'talk-to-the-hand' attitude strikes me as an incredibly Microsoftian heavy-handed response to a difference of opinion. increasingly Google seems to feel comfortable that non-disclosure and keeping people quiet is acceptable behavior.

for the record: "don't be evil" is not the same as an explicitly positive statement to "do good".

or for the math geeks at google, let's state it this way: the opposite of -1 is not 0.

on August 6, 2005 06:52 PM
# Andrew Goodman said:

It also bears mentioning that "Shut Up" is a rather O'Reillyian way of putting "I don't agree with you."

on August 6, 2005 07:14 PM
# Nathan Arnold said:

Jeremy, I was on vacation when the original CNET story was published, and consequently missed all the hooplah. I'm glad your blog brought it to my attention :)

As an employee of Yahoo!, a fan of Google, and a former editor for CNET (is that disclosure enough?) this is definitely NOT a non-story.

People have good reason to be concerned about the information Google and Yahoo! and other powerful Internet companies are recording, and the example data CNET pulled was an effective -- and pretty benign -- way of illustrating where Google is drawing that line for us.

So given the validity of the original article, Google's reaction is out-of-line. That's the real story. And if I were still a practicing journalist, I wouldn't give up on it either.

As an employee of Yahoo!, I wouldn't mind seeing Google's "brand halo" start to dim a little, but it seems silly that they'd start that themselves, and for such a petty reason.

on August 6, 2005 07:52 PM
# Mahlon said:

The same week as the Google-CNET story broke, the Russian foreign ministry banned ABC-TV from the country after it broadcast an interview with a Chechen leader.

Did Russia have the *right* to kick ABC out of the country? Of course they did. Did Google have the *right* to stop talking to CNET? Of course. That's not the point though, is it?

Both the Russian case and the Google case are disturbing because they have a chilling effect on journalists. If you're afraid of losing access, you just might hold a story that should be published.

And for Google, which wants to "organize the world's information," and claims that it operates according to the principles of a "well-run newspaper," shutting off CNET's access is a worthwhile story.

on August 6, 2005 11:07 PM
# Ray Everett-Church said:

I have to disagree. This is a noteworthy story if for no other reason than it shows how naive and immature Google's PR department is. Blackballing a reporter because they wrote an uncomfortable story is bush-league, amateur-hour stuff. But the vastly more important story is that Google doesn't have a compelling, or even coherent, answer to the privacy questions raised in the article. The information published about Schmidt was trivial and of no consequence, and the distinction between "public" and "publicizing" is just a way of diverting attention from the fact that Google still doesn't have a good response to the questions posed. Rather than explain the gaping holes in their privacy policy (which I've discussed at some length on my PrivacyClue.com blog), they'd rather blackball the reporter and the news outlet. Yes, it's within their rights to do, but as a shareholder you of all people should be demanding answers to issues of risk facing Google, not cheering on their efforts to punish those who ask uncomfortable questions. The privacy issues are looming larger for Google, not going away. And ignoring them won't solve them.

on August 7, 2005 12:22 AM
# kasia said:

You blog about a story to make people stop blogging about the same story? :)

on August 7, 2005 06:02 PM
# mc1 said:

"There is a difference between public data and publicising data"

There is also a difference between a CEO of the world's most valuable media company and you and me. All CNET did was report public information about a public figure that many members of the public were interested to learn more about.

Next thing you know, Britney Spears will not be talking to Google or Yahoo because millions of people learn information about her from their search engines :)

on August 7, 2005 10:46 PM
# Dave King said:

And no more comments on postings about this story please ;)

on August 7, 2005 11:59 PM
# Bubba said:

I'd be just as inclined to call Google on the mat for their questionable corporate morals on this one as I would to point out the obvious Yellow Blogging (should we call them Yoggers?) that's going on over this.

Google got trolled by news.com. News.com got what they went after, and now we have a story!

Woop-uh-dee-do.

on August 8, 2005 10:02 AM
# Buck Mulligan said:

Is "please shut up" your answer to the difficult public policy problems caused by search engines?

on August 8, 2005 04:24 PM
# Joel said:

If only Google just let it pass, no one would have ever noticed this boring little article and poor little Eric Schmidt would have kept his privacy.

on August 8, 2005 09:18 PM
# JackieBoy said:

"I'm getting tired of this story. It was amusing for a minute or two, but seems to have stuck around far, far longer than it should have."

In the fullness of time, the true nature of things is ultimately revealed.

The google-cnet story has legs because it shows that the "do no evil" mantra is nothing more than a PR stunt....kind of like the google stock "auction"

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