Google CEO Eric Schmidt said the company has strong incentives to protect private data but the web's permanent record has ramifications for society as a whole.
Speaking to the Wall Street Journal in an interview, Schmidt said, "I don't believe society understands what happens when everything is available, knowable and recorded by everyone all the time," before going on to suggest that in the future young people may change their name in order to make a break from the permanent Internet record of youthful indiscretions.
The comments have been widely picked up by the mainstream press in headlines such as "Google CEO's solution to privacy: Change your name" (The Atlantic). Schmidt clearly was not, however, making a suggestion but rather a prediction as to how society may adapt to a future where "everything is available, knowable and recorded by everyone all the time."
"I mean we really have to think about these things as a society," said Schmidt. "I'm not even talking about the really terrible stuff, terrorism and access to evil things."
Earlier in the interview Schmidt had discussed how Internet users opt in to providing information in order to gain benefits while also suggesting that the company didn't need to be regulated regarding privacy because it was under the highest motivation to protect private data, expecting users to desert the company if it did something "creepy" with the data.
Interestingly, another Schmidt also speculated about not-too-distant future scenario which gave the impression of Google stepping into a personal assistant role. Google would know the user is in need of milk and remind them when they pass a shop that sells milk, he suggested.
Google Pantry perhaps?