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Eric Schmidt thought 'Don't Be Evil' was 'the stupidest rule ever' when he joined Google

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eric schmidt stock
eric schmidt stock

Former Google CEO and current chairman Eric Schmidt is known for both a sense of broad techno-utopianism and a willingness to speak out on privacy hot-button issues. While he's spoken about things like the need for an internet "delete button" or laws to regulate drone surveillance, he also helps lead a company that has access to vast amounts of personal data, something that often doesn't sit well with Google users. In a casual, often jokey interview with NPR's Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me!, Schmidt stated once and for all that he could read all our email — but he'd never do it. "I would lose my job, be fired, and be sued to death," he told host Peter Sagal. Whether or not he tried to hide the snooping, "Someone would find out, trust me."

Amidst anecdotes about trapping rogue boa constrictors or the perks of working in Google's offices, Schmidt talked about the company's culture, including the famous "Don't Be Evil" slogan instituted by co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin. "The idea was that we don't quite know what evil is, but if we have a rule that says don't be evil, then employees can say, I think that's evil," Schmidt said. "Now, when I showed up, I thought this was the stupidest rule ever, because there's no book about evil except maybe, you know, the Bible or something." In the end, though, he believes it has worked, by giving employees a way to point out things they find unethical.

"There's no book about evil except maybe, you know, the Bible or something."

Schmidt also half-jokingly confirmed what some of us already suspected about Glass: that nobody has a clear idea of how to use it. What would Glass be used for? "Well, we don't quite know yet. We have maybe 2,000 of these. We've shipped them out to developers, and we're seeing what they develop ... So kind of watch and see what people do with it and then decide what to do." It's a strategy Google has tried before — unfortunately, one of the results was Google Wave.