Eric Schmidt

Google faces a lot of questions on Europe’s new right to be forgotten ruling.

Should it notify a news website that it taking down links to one of its stories in its search results? Can famous people remove links to information about them created before they began to make headlines? Should those who fail to understand Facebook’s privacy settings be able remove information held in their social network profile from Google’s search results?


At London swing of Google's advisory council hearings on #rtbf. Unlike the search engine, lots of questions, few answers

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These were among tricky dilemmas put today to Google’s “advisory council”: a group of independent experts advising the company on how to implement the European Court of Justice’s controversial decision in May. The court gave people the right to ask internet search engines to remove sensitive or embarrassing links to websites for queries that include their name. Deluged with hundreds of thousands of such takedown requests, Google wants the council to help develop policies to deal with the most difficult of cases.

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Eric Schmidt (c) Getty Images

On Thursday Eric Schmidt gave a fascinating talk on technological innovation, in which he warned that broad range of jobs that once seemed beyond the reach of automation are in danger of being wiped out by technological advances.

I raised two questions to neither of which in my view did I receive a good answer.

First, we see IT everywhere, except in the productivity statistics. It is really quite hard to reconcile the idea of a dramatic technology revolution with stagnant or near-stagnant productivity in high-income countries.

What is going on? Is most of the revolution in household production? Or is GDP even more mis-measured than usual?

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Eric Schmidt

Eric Schmidt. Image by Getty.

In 2008, Michael Grade, then chief executive of ITV, branded Google a “parasite”, along with other internet companies that “live off our content”.

Tonight, Eric Schmidt, Google’s chairman, will take to the TV industry’s most prestigious platform to give the MacTaggart lecture in Edinburgh.

The Edinburgh International TV Festival’s annual keynote speech has been on steady rotation between the BBC, ITV and Channel 4 for most of its 35-year history, with the recent exception of News Corp Europe chief James Murdoch’s 2009 attack on the BBC.

So the symbolism behind the podium space granted to Google, Facebook and Twitter this year should not be underestimated. Read more

Tech news from around the web:

  • Apple is planning a service that would allow customers to use their iPhones and iPads to make purchases, reports Bloomberg. The company is set to introduce Near Field Communication technology – a system that can beam and receive information at a distance of up to 4 inches – into the next generation of the iPhone and iPad. According to TechCrunch, if Apple can tie NFC directly into its  iTunes payment system, “it could change everything”.
  • The New York Times is poised to unveil its long-heralded online paywall, says the Wall Street Journal. The new system, expected to be rolled out next month, will see the NYT sell an internet-only subscription for unlimited access to the site, as well as a broader digital package that bundles the site with its iPad application.

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Google‘s working practices are famously weird. Its chief executive, Eric Schmidt, argues that chaos is crucial to its corporate culture. Others say it’s just this sort of disorganisation that leads to snafus such as StreetView cars intercepting WiFi data.

But Mr Schmidt has no plans to change things.

“It’s very tempting to try to organise the chaos of Google. You would hope the CEO would be able to do that,” Mr Schmidt told the Guardian’s Activate conference in London on Thursday evening. But the “essence of the company is a little bit of disorganisation”, he said, because that allows it to see “what’s next”.

Mr Schmidt went on to stress the importance of 20 per cent time to Google, even saying that he himself took up the opportunity to spend one day a week on personal projects. Read more

Google logoGoogle doesn’t do humility very well, especially in the rarefied atmosphere of the annual Zeitgeist conference. This is generally an opportunity for high flying executives to rub shoulders with the great and good – this year’s opening keynote was by Archbishop Tutu – and spend two days congratulating themselves on their vision and innovation.

It was an uncomfortable place for Google to find itself at the centre of a privacy row over the unauthorised collection of WiFi data by its StreetView cars. Unsurprising, therefore, that the company showed little real remorse over the incident. Read more

Rupert Murdoch is enough of a newsman to know this: if you start a public row, you might as well cash in on it in your own publications.

Today’s Wall Street Journal gives Eric Schmidt the space to defend himself against some of the accusations that Murdoch and his underlings have been hurling at Google recently. Read more

  • Google executives mounted a concerted public defence of how the search company wields its wide-ranging power on the internet amid signs of growing regulatory concern. The comments came as a Google lawyer confirmed for the first time that US regulators had shown their interest in possible competition issues raised by chief executive Eric Schmidt’s position as a director on Apple’s board.
  • Hulu, the US online video service owned by NBC Universal, Fox and Walt Disney, has signed its first batch of content deals with international television producers, the first step towards a full global launch of the service. The company was set up 18 months ago by the media companies as a viable alternative to YouTube for professionally produced content.

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