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Google trying not to cross 'the creepy line'

When it comes to the tricky balance between providing comprehensive information and freaking people out, Google says it tries to stay on the good side of the "creepy line."

Real-time satellite imagery of lunch at the Googleplex would be "creepy," according to CEO Eric Schmidt.
Screenshot by Tom Krazit/CNET

Google is trying not to be creepy.

That's according to CEO Eric Schmidt, who told Fox Business Thursday that "we're trying not to cross what we call the creepy line" when it comes to the data it gathers. As an example, Schmidt said Google only publishes satellite data that is a month old, indicating that Google would consider it creepy to publish real-time satellite data.

Google is quite used to facing charges that it has become a little too Big Brotherish in its conquest of the Internet search market. In response, it emphasizes that Google users have control over the data the company collects on them, most recently introducing Google Dashboard as a way of letting users see all the personal data the company has assembled in a single Web page.

That will likely never be enough to satisfy the hardcore privacy advocates of the world, but the general public--and the government--are also starting to get a little uneasy about Google's unparalleled reach across the Internet.

In the interview, Schmidt also said that Google had to avoid the "mistakes" made by Microsoft that led to its prosecution by the U.S. government. But Google also has to be wary about how aggressively it courts favor with the Obama administration, he said: Schmidt is a technology adviser to the administration.

"You don't want to be too close to any particular administration, and they don't want to be too close particularly to you," Schmidt said. That drew a dry retort from Fox Business' Neil Cavuto, who said, "Well, take it from us here at Fox, that's not a worry."

Don't forget, CNET is scheduled to interview Schmidt next week, and if you have questions for the CEO, leave them in the comments below or on this page.