Don’t like Google Street View taking pictures of your house? “Just move,” joked Google CEO Eric Schmidt, in a CNN interview on Friday. A controversial joke, no doubt — one made even more controversial for later seeming to disappear from the interview. Don’t blame Google, the company says. It didn’t ask for the quote to be pulled. And by the way, anyone can remove pictures of their home from Google, no need to move required. More below.
The Full Interview Versus What Aired
Last Friday afternoon, Schmidt did a taped interview with Kathleen Parker and Eliot Spitzer, co-hosts of the new Parker Spitzer show. The interview lasted about 20-25 minutes, a Google representative told me. It involved an extended back-and-forth on privacy issues, I was also told.
Friday evening, Eastern time, an edited version of the interview aired. I’ve never watched the show, but I gather this is common. Guests tape a longer interview that gets cut down to a shorter segment.
The interview is available on the Parker Spitzer web site here, with a transcript, and you can also watch it below:
For those who watch Google and privacy issues closely, there was nothing particularly remarkable or new. Schmidt made many of the same general statements as he’s done in recent speeches and in other interviews.
A Quote Seems To Go Missing
Nothing new or remarkable in what you’ll see on the CNN site right now, that is. What was notable was that a segment about Google Street View doesn’t appear there. As reported by John Letzing of MarketWatch, this said in part:
“Street View, we drive exactly once,” Schmidt said, referring to the vehicles mounted with cameras sent out to take photos for the service. “So, you can just move, right?” After a brief, subsequent exchange with co-host Kathleen Parker, Schmidt laughed, making it unclear whether the remark was made in jest.
Over at All Things D, John Paczkowski also reported about the quote.
What happened? Where did the segment go?
Google: We Didn’t Ask For Quote To Be Pulled
Google tells me it made no request for it to be edited out, not out of the interview broadcasted on television nor on the CNN site. Google also tells me it’s unsure where that quote actually aired. Its news monitoring services didn’t catch it as part of the TV broadcast. Perhaps it was in a promo for the segment, Google guesses. Or possibly, it might have been on the web site and later removed.
Reporters: Was Preview Clip On CNN.com
I’ve got an email out to CNN but haven’t heard back yet. I also contacted Letzing over at MarketWatch. He says there was a preview of the interview up on the Parker Spitzer site, apparently before the final interview was posted. This was part of that preview. CNN oddly didn’t include the quote as part of the final interview. Paczkowski told me the same thing.
Enough With The Jokes?
What about the context of that quote. Seriously, just move? Google didn’t clarify if Schmidt was really joking about this, but that was probably the case. And it probably should put an end to his joking about such matters, because it would be at least the second time one has backfired on him (see Stephen Colbert Interviews Google’s Eric Schmidt On The Colbert Report for previous examples).
Remove Your Home, No Move Required
In seriousness, those who don’t want their homes to be in Google Street View can request removal. In Germany, the Google recently reported that 244,237 households — 2.9% of all households it estimates for Germany — requested removal before Street View goes live there. Residents can also request removal after the service launches, in Germany or any country where Street View is live.
For related news, see Techmeme.
Postscript: Still haven’t heard back from CNN myself, by All Things D got a response that Google didn’t ask for the cut and that the clip was “widely available” after having been posted to CNN.com and given to media outlets. I disagree. I couldn’t find it across the entire web, when I looked earlier today. A search just on the Parker Spitzer site brings up no matching page for “street view,” at all — though that search wouldn’t capture words within a video itself that might be out there. But I’ve also browsed the site and found it nowhere.
Here’s the transcript about the Street View photography:
Parker: “We know where you are. We know where you’ve been. We can more or less know what you’re thinking about.” [quoting Schmidt from a recent Atlantic interview]. Eric, I’m sorry, I hate to say this, but that really creeps me out. So, I want to know, what do you know about me? Do you know what prescription I filled last week? Do you know, can you read my e-mail. I have a Gmail account.
[Technically, Google does read your Gmail -- at least an automated computer program does, in order to decide what ads are shown near it. But humans aren't reading it or trying to ferret out any secrets you might have. Google also does know what prescriptions you have, if you voluntarily choose to make use of the Google Health service].
Schmidt: We don’t read your Gmail, and don’t know what prescription you had. What we do know is we keep the searches that you do for roughly a year, year and a half, and then we forget them.
[Unless you've elected to opt-in to Google Web History. Then Google will forget nothing until you explicitly tell it to.]
Parker: Well, you say that but I mean can somebody come to you and say we need some information on Kathleen Parker?
Schmidt: Under a federal court order properly delivered to us, we might be forced to do that, but otherwise, no.
Parker: Does that happen very often?
Schmidt: Very rarely. And if it’s not formally delivered, then we’ll fight it.
Parker: But you can see, you could zoom in, and for example, and you’ve got Google can do Street Views [sic], you can see where I live, you could come straight to my house, if you want to. You could show the street I live on. You know a lot about me, if you want to.
[Technically, it's more the case that if someone knows where Parker lives, they could go to Google Street View and, if Google has taken pictures of her area, see her house. But if someone doesn't know where Parker lives, Google isn't much help. If Parker has given Google her address in some way (and this isn't required for common services such as Gmail), potentially Google itself could then "know" where she lives].
Schmidt: And we’ve decided to not cross that line. So for example, Street View, we drive exactly once, so you can just move, right?
[Google never confirmed that Schmidt was joking about this. That's been the assumption by some. It was my assumption before watching the clip. But I don't think he was. I've watched it several times now, and he's serious.
I think he's serious, because I think he was trying to say that if someone moves, then "their house" is no longer on Google -- or at least, they're now in another house that might or might not be recorded on Google Street View, and that Google pretty much has no idea where they lived before nor where they've moved to. He was also trying, as he gets into, to stress it's not a real time tracking situation.
Also, my understanding was that Google did update its Street View photography from time-to-time in places where it has already been. Certainly it does this with satellite photography. The world changes, and you have to keep shooting fresh photography to keep up.]
Parker: I can move?
Schmidt: Yes, or alternatively…
Parker: That’s a lot of trouble… [laughs]
Schmidt: I know, I know. But the important point is that we only do it once, right? We don’t, this is not a monitoring situation. And with satellites, what happens is we actually have a delay from the satellite images that we do, for the same reason. So we’re very careful not to have real time information about what people, where people are. And any kind of real time information about what you’re doing, again, would have to be something discoverable in the searches. And that would be difficult.
Parker: So nobody can Google Earth me and see that my car is parked out front.
Schmidt: They absolutely cannot. And in fact, the resolution does not allow it.
[The satellite resolution doesn't allow it. Street View absolutely does allow it. But you'd have to know first where Parker lived, then what car she drives, and then her car would have had to have been parked out in front of her house at the time a Street View car shot her street. Then -- just then -- you might know she was parked outside her house at the time that car went by weeks, months or years ago].
Postscript 3: Heard back from CNN itself now, which says it’s typical to put highlight clips up first and then for producers to add new information for the final show. It also confirmed that Google didn’t request that anything be removed. The CNN statement:
Producers routinely make editorial decisions about what sound bites to include in their shows. In this case, the clip was posted on cnn.com and disseminated to other media outlets and was widely available.
Postscript 4: Google’s sent across a new statement, this one from Eric Schmidt himself:
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.