Watchdog to Obama: Schmidt policing online privacy is like Madoff heading SEC

Will Eric Schmidt go from being Google CEO to being Obama's voice on privacy as the next Commerce Secretary?

After running Google for ten years, there is little doubt that Eric Schmidt knows the ins and outs of technology and all about successfully managing a massive business. However, signs indicate that Schmidt may step into the upcoming vacancy as Commerce Secretary because current Secretary Gary Locke is becoming U.S. ambassador to China. Schmidt's last day at Google is April 4th.

Reports are spreading on the Net that Schmidt is under consideration for the position along with two others: former Mayor of Dallas and current U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk, and Jeffrey Kindler former CEO and Pfizer chairman. Businessweek reported that the "next Commerce Secretary will have a significant role in Obama's National Export Initiative to double U.S. exports to $3.1 trillion within five years." According to Business Insider, the endorsement of Schmidt by former Reagan Administration Commerce Department is a "strong signal that the GOP DC establishment will support a Schmidt appointment" which "would almost certainly insure a smooth confirmation process."

Consumer Watchdog is well-known for reporting on Google, particularly with the site Inside Google which was launched "to educate the public and opinion leaders about Google's dangerous dominance over the Internet, computer and our online lives." The Consumer Watchdog group sent a letter to President Obama asking him not to nominate Schmidt for the position of Commerce Secretary, stating, "Putting Eric Schmidt in charge of policing online privacy is like appointing Bernie Madoff to direct the Securities Exchange Commission."

HardOCP asked, "What happened to the separation of Search and State?" Funny, but also a good question. The Obama Administration has previously appointed other Google employees such as Andrew McLauglin - Google's former policy chief, Katie Jacobs Stanton - former Google product manager, and Sonal Shah who previously headed up Google.org - Google's philanthropic arm. Back when Obama was transitioning into office, via "Change We Can Believe In," Schmidt advised the President on science and technology issues. According to The Register, "Schmidt gave $25,000 to Obama's inaugural committee, and he has regularly consulted with the president on economic matters."

The U.S. Commerce Department recently pushed to protect Internet consumer privacy legislation. Back in December, the Commerce Department published its Green Paper [PDF] "which contained preliminary policy recommendations to enhance consumer protection and strengthen online trust, while ensuring the Web remains a platform for innovation, jobs, and economic growth."

Schmidt has made it clear that he believes anti-social behavior is tied to anonymity, going so far as to say governments would demand an end to anonymity by a verified name service to identify people. So the idea of Schmidt making decisions about our online privacy seems as alarming as it does ridiculous. There is no doubt that Schmidt knows how to make money. Once upon a time, Google seemed to stand by it's Don't Be Evil motto, but after the Google Wi-Spy debacle and many other mistakes while Schmidt was at the helm, do we really want Schmidt making policy decisions about privacy?

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