Eric Schmidt warns Berliners: 'We know where you are'

Be happy, and hand over your memory to Google


Eric Schmidt did his best to raise the bar on his harshest critics yesterday, by telling an audience in Berlin that "we know where you are, we know what you like".

A week after the US www.consumerwatchdog.org launched a campaign portraying Schmidt as a "privacy pervert", the Google CEO chose an audience in Germany to deliver a keynote in which he claimed that we are entering an age of "augmented humanity" thanks to Google.

However, this doesn't sound like the homo superior of Tomorrow People, where human beings gained incredible powers and big buckled belts, or even Bowie's version, were they were at least pretty.

Rather Schmidt drew a future where Google was serving you up search results all the time, localised to where ever you are.

He told his audience, according to TechCrunch, that “ultimately, search is not just the web but literally all of your information – your email, the things you care about, with your permission – this is personal search, for you and only for you”.

“We can suggest what you should do next, what you care about. Imagine: We know where you are, we know what you like," he said, while promising “A near-term future in which you don’t forget anything, because the computer remembers. You’re never lost.”

So it'll be Google that has the incredible powers, serving up "personal search" while the rest of us will presumably be very happy, mainly because Google tells us we are.

Schmidt flagged up some of the upcoming technologies he expects to enable Google to augment reality, sorry, humanity.

This includes the much-flagged Google music service, with Schmidt pointing out that "if it’s not connected to the internet, it just has what’s stored on it" and can't access new music. God forbid that people should want to choose what to download or even leave their sofas to go to a record shop. Or even make their own music.

Schmidt also banged the drum for its mobile operation, saying search traffic from Android phones tripled in the first half. Schmidt has been catfighting with Steve Jobs over mobile activations recently.

But while Google might have the technology when it comes to augmenting humanity, it does seem to have a major deficit on sensitivity.

While Schmidt's recent warblings on people's right to change names to escape their Google profiles caused chuckles and/or rolled eyes, his comments in Germany itself arguably show a stunning lack of political and cultural nous.

Google has been struggling to get Germans to embrace its StreetView operation, displaying remarkable incomprehension that a country that has experienced both the Gestapo and the Stasi in living memory might have qualms about anything that smacks of surveillance.

In March Google chief technology advocate Michael Jones told an audience at Cebit that the firm had been completely taken aback by the German animosity towards StreetView, saying that at Google "We're not all Germans" and couldn't be expected to know the country's own peculiar history.

For Schmidt to follow up six months later by telling Germans, "we know where you are...[and] what you like" and that "memory" should be given over to Google's algorithms and servers suggests that the firm could do with augmenting some of the humans in Mountain View before it even thinks of having a go at the rest of us. ®

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