Google’s CEO, Eric Schmidt, just said something that makes me seriously reconsider whether I should be trusting his company with my clients’ information.

“If you have something that you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place.” Here is the video:

Bruce Schneier had the obvious rejoinder, and JWZ points out that Google once blacklisted CNET for publishing Eric Schmidt’s personal info. How ironic. BoingBoing has the snarky summary.

But the real question is whether lawyers should trust Google with their clients’ confidential information if this is the attitude of Google’s CEO. His muttering about the Patriot Act makes me wonder if Google is going to act like Yahoo! and Sprint and give it up to anyone with a badge, search warrant or not.

I am not jumping to move all my information just yet, but I am watching carefully to see whether and how Google responds.

Google CEO: Secrets Are for Filthy People | Valleywag


  1. Sam, I think “sell out” may be the wrong choice of words. “Surrender without a second thought” might be better. Seems to me an enterprising tech expert/lawyer/entrepreneur might consider building a secure cloud alternative to google that would cater to lawyers with confidential information to store. That information would of course be fiercely defended from government snooping or bullying.

  2. Sheryl Sisk SChelin says:

    I think you’re right to be concerned. I noticed in Google Docs’ terms of service, waaay back in the early days (if we’re not still there, but I think not, given how fast things move in ‘net-land), that there were some causes for concern about the content’s security. I never used it when I was lawyering, though I do now (but then again, I no longer have those same concerns). But the cavalier attitude demonstrated with these comments, whether constituting “selling out” or not, is definitely wrong-headed and myopic.

  3. Google’s position has been any data uploaded into a google workspace is ultimately owned by Google. Not really a great option for lawyers trying to keep client info confidential.

    Look at PB works Legal Edi as a secure alternative.

  4. Phil says:

    Wow! I’m surprised that folks jump to such a conclusion so quickly. Google has some great legal folks working in its privacy and cyberlaw group. I find that they are working really hard to protect their clients’ data. They have fought compelled disclosure in the past. That being said, they are subject to the legal systems throughout the world. Therefore, I would believe they would protect my data (Google Apps info, gmail, Google Docs, etc.).

    Google has gone much beyond “surrender without a second thought.” Further, Google does NOT say that everything is owned by them – private info not posted in the public. There is indeed reason to be concerned and remain vigilant. But to take this one statement and attribute it to an entire corporate mindset is misguided in my opinion.

  5. Sam Glover Sam Glover says:

    I don’t think I am jumping to conclusions. As I said, I am not jumping to move my data; I am waiting to see how Google responds. But although I agree that CEO Eric Schmidt’s words do not reflect the way Google has done business—or the way it treats our data—his words make me concerned for the way his company will treat my data—and my clients’ data, more importantly.

    If Google wants to get businesses to use its services, it needs to recognize that the data of our clients and customers is important, and sometimes confidential. It needs to safeguard that data as we would, or we will not use Google’s services.

    What I worry is that we will find out next that Google has been giving away data without a fight, or that it has struck a deal with government to do so. If so, I will take my data elsewhere.

  6. Seriously? You see this comment as Google telegraphing its intent to reveal everyone’s secrets? Isn’t that reading a little too much into it? Wait a minute … does that mean the post office reads my mail too? In that case, there is no confidentiality in any case. If you communicate then you take a risk. Measure your risk, take the right precautions, and be in control. Freak out and you wind up in a cave.

    Just saying …

    • Aaron Street Aaron Street says:


      I think you’re reading too much into Sam’s statement. He said the statements concerned him; he didn’t say he thinks Google plans to “reveal everyone’s secrets”.

      Further, your analogy to the Post Office makes no sense. It is damn right that if the Postmaster General made the statement “if you don’t want the world to see it, maybe you shouldn’t mail it”, that I would be worried, and rightly so.

      If you think Sam (or anyone bothered by Eric Schmidt’s statement) lives in a “cave”, you clearly don’t read this blog very often.

      Just saying…

  7. Nyamodi Ochieng-Nyamogo says:

    With due respects,i certainly failed to discern any such alarmist impression of CEO Eric Schmidt’s statement! Rather,i read the CEO to be reminding us to act like “reasonable men” in the conduct of our day to day affairs,professional or otherwise! Isn’t that the same stuff they drilled into our minds right from our very first day in law school and kept repeating at every opportunity till we managed to leave law school?! Secondly, i got the CEO to merely,though realistically,be cautioning us that, it must never be lost on us,that “Big Brother” might be,and most probably is,watching;so better be safe than sorry!
    Is Google preparing to “sell out” or strike “deals” which are,or likely to be,prejudicial to us? I do not know,but one thing i do know,for sure,is that if they are predisposed to such mindset,they better have some hard nosed quick witted lawyer, in there somewhere, to firmly remind them, that such is the stuff calamity is made of!

  8. Sam Glover Sam Glover says:

    Lawyers have an obligation to be more than merely “reasonable” when safeguarding their clients’ data, I think.

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