By Courtney Banks
Google Inc. Chief Executive Eric Schmidt will be leaving his CEO role in April. He’ll stay with the company as executive chairman but will turn the reins over to Google co-founder Larry Page.
What will we at Digits miss most about Mr. Schmidt? The quotability factor.
Over the past couple of years, Mr. Schmidt has been colorful and outspoken, particularly on the important issue of online privacy. Below, some of our favorite Eric Schmidt moments.
10. At the Washington Ideas Forum in October 2010, Mr. Schmidt responded to a question about whether Google might be developing a “Google implant” that would allow people to search simply by thinking:
“Google policy is to get right up to the creepy line but not cross it. I would argue that implanting things in your brain is beyond the creepy line. At least for the moment, until the technology gets better.”
9. In a keynote address at the Abu Dhabi Media Summit, March 2010, Mr. Schmidt responded to an audience member who expressed fear about Google’s access to search and other information about people:
“Would you prefer someone else? Do you have a particular government that would prefer to be in charge of this?”
8. At that same summit, talking about ways Google could use the information it collects:
“One day we had a conversation where we figured we could just try to predict the stock market. And then we decided it was illegal. So we stopped doing that.”
“One day Larry and Sergey bought Android, and I didn’t even notice. Think about the strategic opportunities that has created. Sergey found Google Earth one day while he was surfing on the Web. And then he walked into my office and told me he bought them. And I said, ‘for how much, Sergey?’ And it turned out to be a few million.”
6. In an August 2010 interview published in the Wall Street Journal, Mr. Schmidt posited that someday people would need to be able to change their names on reaching adulthood, in order to avoid embarassing information about them recorded on their friends’ social-networking sites:
“I don’t believe society understands what happens when everything is available, knowable and recorded by everyone all the time … I mean we really have to think about these things as a society.”
5. Speaking on a panel at the Techonomy conference in August 2010, Mr. Schmidt touted how Google image-search technology could be used to identify people:
“If you have 14 pictures on the Internet, within a 95% confidence interval we can predict who you are. You say you don’t have 14 pictures? You have Facebook pictures, so there.”
4. On anonymity online:
“No anonymity. And the reason is that in a world of asymmetric threats, true anonymity is too dangerous. … I think it’s reasonable to say that you need a name service for humans. … The governments are going to require it in some form. They just are going to. It’s not going to be OK to have random terrorists doing random terrible things under the cover of absolute anonymity.”
3. On Google’s power to predict your movements:
“With products like Google Latitude, you can tell us where you are and then you can tell your friends where you are. Well, we can, using [artificial intelligence], then predict where you’re going to go.”
2. In a March 2004 Wall Street Journal interview with Mylene Mangalindan, he responded to a question about what Google’s motto, “do no evil,” means:
“There’s enormous opportunity to mine the information we have for financial gain and those would be examples of evil.
I thought they weren’t really serious about it . . . [but] as I was learning the business, someone made a proposal that involved using some of the advertising information in some way that was iffy and Larry or Sergey [got] very rough: “No, that’s completely counter to our principles, there’s no way to do this, it’s completely unacceptable.”
This had been a perfectly calm meeting. I go, “Wow.” And this is one of those changes which would’ve magnified revenue. I thought, “These guys are really serious.””
1. And our personal favorite. In a December 2009 interview with CNBC’s Maria Bartiromo, responding to questions about Google’s privacy policies:
“If you have something that you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place.”