The release of a database of online search histories that has gotten AOL into so much hot water could never happen at Google, CEO Eric Schmidt said on Wednesday.
“Our number-one priority is the trust our users have in us,” Schmidt said, speaking at a press conference during the Search Engine Strategies conference in San Jose, Calif. “The answer is, it won’t happen.”
Without going into details, Schmidt said security measures are in place at Google that would prevent a company employee from releasing information about user search histories. “We have very sophisticated security plans for an attack on information,” he said.
Google’s Eric Schmidt
Schmidt added that Google is compliant with Sarbanes-Oxley and other legislation that mandates how information within the company can be shared, so there are strict controls that prevent someone inside Google from leaking private information.
The AOL incident was not the result of an attack, however.
On Monday, a researcher at AOL accidentally released a database that contained search histories of more than 650,000 AOL users, histories that provided details into the users’ personal lives. The user names or online identities were not released, however. The company has apologized for making the database public.
Though Schmidt stressed several times that AOL’s release of search histories was a “bad thing,” he said that such an event can serve to raise awareness about what can happen if private online user information is shared without a user’s permission.
“The awareness that bad things can happen is a good thing … especially with [threats] like identity fraud,” Schmidt said.
Keeping with Google’s recent vow to be more open with the press, Schmidt hosted Wednesday’s informal press conference after a public appearance at the conference. In addition to addressing the AOL debacle, he also divulged more details of how Google plans to expand its lucrative advertising business into radio, television and online video.
“We’re thinking of using our advertising system [AdSense] for every form of advertising,” Schmidt said. “Why? It’s a great opportunity to provide more opportunity for advertisers, and it’s a great opportunity to provide better value for end users.”
To this end, Google recently struck a deal with Viacom International’s MTV Networks to distribute ad-supported video content from websites in its advertising network. Earlier this year, the company purchased radio ad provider dMarc Broadcasting, and expects to begin targeted radio advertising in the next two months, he said.
“Radio is going to be very, very big advertising business,” Schmidt said.
-Elizabeth Montalbano, IDG News Service (San Francisco Bureau)