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The retaliation begins: Google profiles get Schmidt-faced

In a protest over Google now grabbing users' profile photos for ads, some people have apparently decided to change their shot to a photo of Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt.

Oh, this will work.
Screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

There's nothing like a good protest, is there?

People get together. They screech and they scream. Then they go back home and everything stays the same.

The latest public movement appears to be in protest of Google's decision to make its services (even) more like Facebook.

In a stunningly predictable decision, Google has decided to use your name and profile to bolster the blinding authenticity of its advertising.

Yes, without paying you. Well, this is the free economy, isn't it?

Oddly, some people seem stunned by this -- despite the fact that the program largely resembles Facebook's Sponsored Stories.

So, evidence of a small movement against Google's ploy has emerged. It involves putting naked Photoshopped pictures of Google's Larry Page, clutching a rose to his face, on everyone's profile page.

Well, that's close. A tweet retweeted by Daring Fireball's John Gruber suggests that some Google users are choosing to replace their own Google Profile picture with a shot of Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt.

The idea is that very soon every single display ad on Google's services will appear with a recommendation featuring Schmidt's beatific features.

Perhaps it will catch on. Perhaps the whole world will suddenly refuse to have their own picture on a Google Profile and merely regularly switch it out for an image of a hippopotamus; a serial killer; a nasty, dead TV character; or a former Russian president.

Soon, Google's display ads will be a farce, and the company will be forced into the one foolproof method of getting people on its side: bribery. Yes, you will get a small cut of every sale made through a display ad.

On the other hand.

The core of this isn't really that Google wants to use for its benefit every last morsel of information we put out there. We always knew about that, didn't we? Instead, isn't the heart of the issue our strange compulsion to tell the world who we are, what we like, and what we don't?

We have a deep and desperate need to declaim what we think. We want to find other people who like what we do, crave the same things we do, and snort derisively at the very same faces we do.

Social networking and its online cousins aren't so much about sharing, they're about personal validation.

Of course, by offering you an opt-out, Google is clever enough to avoid the prospect of the same sort of lawsuit that the privacy-worshippers at Facebook enjoyed.

Somehow, though, opting-out requires work. And the one thing we despise -- just as much as we love validation -- is having to make an effort.

Perhaps the Schmidt-faced protest will work. Perhaps this is the beginning of a new era of civic action on the Web.

Or perhaps we'll secretly be pleased when one of our friends pings us and declares: "Hey, thank you. I bought that five-blade leg-shaver just because of you."