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Update: Google CEO Schmidt says he 'misspoke' on Street View privacy concerns

Update at 11:55 a.m.: quote from Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google

Google on Tuesday released a statement by CEO Eric Schmidt saying he "misspoke" during an interview last week on CNN, when he said users concerned with its Street View mapping service should "just move."

"As you can see from the unedited interview, my comments were made during a fairly long back and forth on privacy. I clearly misspoke. If you are worried about Street View and want your house removed please contact Google and we will remove it," Schmidt said in a statement.

Original post:
Google’s Street View privacy flap generated response not just about the Wi-Fi data breach, but also whether the mapping application itself overreaches.

Google CEO Eric Schmidt didn't help the company's growing image problem during an interview last week when he said, perhaps in jest, that those concerned with its photographing of streets and homes should "just move." Those comments were later edited out of the interview posted on CNN.com's Web site, sparking speculation that the company pushed the cable network to extract the remarks.

Google denies it influenced CNN's decision.

“It was a long interview, there was a long back-and-forth on privacy, and CNN edited the interview down to what they thought was most interesting and relevant,” a Google spokesperson said in an e-mail. “Editorial decisions are clearly CNN’s, so you would have to contact them to ask them why they aired what they did.”

But the episode highlights sensitivity by some Post Tech readers about Google's privacy practices.

Some said people should do a better job of making their Wi-Fi networks more secure and debate about how much outrage users should feel over Google’s cars collecting e-mails and URL data from residential Wi-Fi networks.

One reader noted that the Street View application itself is troublesome. The application, in 32 countries, gives rooftop, street level and front-door views of addresses. The application is part of Google’s mapping products and will be used for location-based services on mobile phones.

“Is there a reason that none of us are questioning Google's Street View project, which gave rise to this overreach? Or Google's manifest-destiny approach to hoovering up all the data in the world?

I was so envious when I read in Thursday's Post that Germans have the legal right not to appear on Street View. Google will be providing a blurring tool for Germans -- but not for us. Kinda sad when everyone else in the world has better privacy rights than Americans.” Posted by: “westomoon”

Actually, Google says you can in fact blur your home on Street View by its “report a problem” function on its explainer page. I just submitted my request to remove the image of my home … let’s see if it works. Readers: if you do the same, let Post Tech know about your experience in the comments section.

Google won’t give numbers on how many U.S. homes have opted out of the Street View application. But it did gave figures for Germany, saying last week in a blog post that 244,000 households in Germany’s 20 largest cities had formally requested that their homes be blurred before the launch of the service there in several weeks.

Andreas Türk, product manger for Street View in Germany, said the requests represented about 3 percent of the 8.5 million households in those cities.

Consumer advocates say most users won’t go to the trouble of voluntarily opting out of the program and better protections should be introduced by Google or imposed by federal enforcement officials.

“Google is trapped in its own success: It can’t step off the digital data collection treadmill with Facebook and others in hot pursuit,” said Jeffrey Chester, executive director of Center for Digital Democracy. “But consumers and citizens should expect more honesty coming from the “don’t do evil” Web giant – not just new promises to better behave.”

Also of interest from Post Tech:
Google "mortified" Street View cars scarfed up e-mails, Web pages, passwords.

By Cecilia Kang  | October 26, 2010; 11:12 AM ET
Categories:  FTC, Google, Privacy  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: What's Bloomberg's beef with Comcast NBC merger? The TV Dial
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Comments

I had my house deleted from Street View. When you look it up, the window goes black. Same if you get very close with the satellite view, which I didn't expect.

Posted by: Bitter_Bill | October 26, 2010 12:13 PM | Report abuse

I had my house deleted from Street View this past August (a long-time DC resident, I now live in Western Wisconsin). When someone asked to see how that impacted the Street View yesterday, I brought the map up.

I was unpleasantly surprised to find that all the images that had previously been deleted were back in the system. For those who have asked to have their houses removed from Street View, I would check to make sure the images are still deleted.

I've e-mailed Google Maps - with the original Reference ID's for all the images involved - and gotten no response. So much for being sensitive to homeowner's privacy. I'm sure that "just move" comment wasn't that far out of context.

Posted by: Chasmosaur1 | October 26, 2010 2:27 PM | Report abuse

Google CEO Eric Schmidt said, "If you are worried about Street View and want your house removed please contact Google and we will remove it."

Is their any limitation to where Google will move your house? Will it be just to mainland USA, or anywhere abroad?

Posted by: QuincyPynke | October 26, 2010 2:31 PM | Report abuse

The flap over the wifi data collection has me confused.

Some wifi users left their networks open and unencrypted and are now upset that Google might have picked up some of that unencrypted data (while documenting open wifi hot-spots).

Isn't that akin to walking around the neighborhood naked and complaining when your bare butt appears in somebody's photographs?

Seems like the solution is to put on some clothes (encrypt your network) instead of whining about it.

Posted by: HerndonBiker | October 26, 2010 2:45 PM | Report abuse

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