Actions someone takes when young can haunt the person forever, Schmidt said, because the information will always be on the Internet. He used the example of a young person who committed a crime that could be expunged from his record when he's an adult. But information about that crime could remain online, preventing the person from finding a job.
"In America, there's a sense of fairness that's culturally true for all of us," Schmidt said. "The lack of a delete button on the Internet is a significant issue. There is a time when erasure is a right thing."
Schmidt made the comments during an event at New York University in Manhattan. He and Jared Cohen, director of Google Ideas, spoke with NYU professor Nouriel Roubini about their new book.
Cohen said that in the future, an ecosystem will evolve around protecting and monitoring people's online images.
Meanwhile, Schmidt said that even with the proliferation of wearable devices, people will still have privacy. Each country will make a decision about how to address the issue, he said, and each nation's policy will be different.