The other day I read a number of pieces that quoted Eric Schmidt, former CEO of Google, for example, this:
former Google CEO Eric Schmidt shared one technology he says is the only one Google has ever built, then withheld: facial recognition.
“We built that technology and we withheld it,” Schmidt said of facial recognition at the All Things Digital D9 conference in California. “As far as I know, it’s the only technology Google has built and, after looking at it, we decided to stop.”
“I’m very concerned personally about the union of mobile tracking and face recognition,” he explained, adding that the company feared that these capabilities could be used both for good and “in a very bad way.” Schmidt described a scenario in which an “evil dictator” could use facial recognition to identify people in a crowd and use the technology “against” its citizens.
Though Google may not be releasing products with facial recognition capabilities, Schmidt acknowledged that the open nature of Google’s Android and Chrome platforms could enable third parties to develop and distribute this technology.
“There are plenty of apps I don’t like that are still legal,” he noted.
Still, for the time being, Schmidt maintains that Google is “not going to go into” facial recognition in a “general way.”
I figured that Google had developed and held back — or killed — other technologies, and decided to look for examples. Here we are, a few days later, and I see this:
Just before the launch of its long-rumored GDrive – a service for storing all your desktop files on the web – Google killed the thing. “Files are so 1990. … I don’t think we need files anymore,” Google’s Sundar Pichai told colleague Bradley Horowitz, according to the new book In the Plex. “You just want to get information into the cloud. When people use our Google Docs, there are no more files. You just start editing in the cloud, and there’s never a file.”
According to the book, penned by Wired scribe Steven Levy, Horowitz – who led the GDrive project – was skeptical of Pinchai’s stance. GDrive eventually vanished in favor of the Google Docs model, after more than a year of development, even though it was never released to the public.
I’m betting that many other examples will come to light, over time, which just shows that Schmidt didn’t get down in the bit mines with the product people.