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Sitemap Sep-Archive-05 Google Quietly Ends CNET Boycott

Google Quietly Ends CNET Boycott  

Google Inc.'s wrath is short lived, it turns out.
Google Inc.'s boycott of News.com appears to have ended quietly, less than three months after company executives told the technology news site that they would stop speaking with its reporters for a year.

Search engine was irked over story on chief executive
Eric Schmidt, Google's chief executive, granted an interview with a Cnet reporter for an article published on the eve of search engines’ seventh birthday. Elinor Mills, the reporter whose article in July about privacy issues aroused by Google's search engine apparently offended the company.

The blackballing started after Mills ran a story in July about potential privacy concerns over Google. She went looking for details on Schmidt to illustrate the kind of information available through Google. She noted in the piece that his net worth was $1.5 billion, that he donated $25,000 to the Democratic National Committee and that he had attended the Burning Man counterculture festival.

The article in question, written by reporter Elinor Mills, showed how Google is a gold mine of personal information that could potentially be misused, particularly the private logs the company keeps about its users, including their search history. To illustrate the point, Mills included the details about Schmidt and underscored that she found them by searching on Google for half an hour.

She also included a link to a site where Schmidt's home address could be found.

Soon after, News.com's editor Jai Singh said, a Google spokesman called to object to the article's contents and then added that Google employees would not speak with Cnet's reporters until July 2006.

Since then, Google had declined to comment for a number of Cnet articles. In response, Cnet disclosed in the stories that "Google representatives have instituted a policy of not talking with Cnet News.com reporters" because of privacy issues raised by a previous article.

In July, Singh said Google's interview ban had forced News.com to run a disclaimer on any articles about Google explaining why Google executives weren't being quoted. Pundits and columnists in the New York Times, San Jose Mercury News and Detroit Free Press then accused Schmidt of taking a ‘hypocritical’ stance and even fearing his own company's technology.

I'm not surprised at all that Google changed its mind, said Mark Glaser, a columnist for the Online Journalism Review, an online newsletter by the University of Southern California's Annenberg School of Communications. This whole thing was a big mistake on Google's part.

It made them look very defensive and made them look like they were overreacting and upset at the power of their own product, Glaser said.

After all, most citizens have no way of protecting their information from Google, they said, so why should Schmidt?

Refusing to speak to reporters from specific publications is rare, but not unheard of. Hollywood stars, politicians and sports figures have blackballed newspapers that have upset them.

The Cnet article that quoted Schmidt made no mention of the past conflict or its resolution. The article said that Schmidt was interviewed by telephone to discuss the company's seventh anniversary and an increase in its search index size.

Neither Google nor Cnet returned calls seeking comment.

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