Google Users Worry About Personal Data Privacy

Google users love having access to all the rich information resources served up by search engines as long as they don't discover their families' personal information.

SAN FRANCISCO—Gaining access to an ever increasing and ever more sophisticated volume of information through Web searches was an attractive idea to Gartner Inc. Symposium/IT Expo attendees this week who heard Google Inc. CEO Eric Schmidt talk about some of his companys plans for the future.

But their enthusiasm was tempered by concerns that more personal information or even satellite images that compromised their families privacy might turn up in future Google searches.

In an on-stage interview Wednesday at the Gartner Symposium, Schmidt said that Google will continue to experiment with video and audio stream searching and expand its map-linked satellite image search service. He noted that Google has started beta testing a new video and audio service that will allow people to find their favorite shows.

Google is also continuing with its project to scan and digitally archive the contents of six major research libraries to get the information online, he said. "We hope to expand that over time so that people will have access to the contents of millions more books and documents.

"We are going to make it harder to get off Google because there is going to be so much more information," he said.

/zimages/3/28571.gifClick here to read about Googles efforts to bring desktop search to enterprise users.

However, Google is also conscious about the issue of privacy, and it knows it must do no "evil" in conducting business or introducing new search services.

For example, while its map-linked satellite images may be of sufficient resolution to reveal individual houses, its not sharp enough let viewers "see your swing set" in the back yard. Schmidt also noted that Google enables individuals to request that Google remove from the search engines reach selected non-public personal information that finds its way onto the Internet.

But in general, he said, Google users have shown that they always want access to more information, not less, despite the risk that evil people will find ways to locate and abuse personal information.

"The value of information so overwhelms its misuse that we have not had material problems" with the abuse of Googles search capabilities, he said.

Google, he said, is always looking for new search-related services and ways to enhance the existing services.

The company operates on what Schmidt called the 70-20-10 investment plan. The company spends 70 percent of its research and development on its core search and advertising services; 20 percent on adjacent products like its news and mapping services; and the remaining 10 percent on new ideas that "we dont know what it is yet, but it seems really interesting," he said.

For Google user Anastasia Saltabida, a strategic planner with Hewlett-Packard Co. in Cupertino, Calif., gaining access to more information is a good thing, as long as it doesnt include personal information about her or her family.

"I dont want everybody to know so much about me. I want some anonymity for me and my children," Saltabida said.

Next Page: Scanning libraries of information.

John Pallatto

John Pallatto

John Pallatto has been editor in chief of QuinStreet Inc.'s since October 2012. He has more than 40 years of experience as a professional journalist working at a daily newspaper and...