Google CEO: Internet spurred Obama's nomination

Eric Schmidt fields questions at the Democratic convention about politics, online journalism, and privacy.

Declan McCullagh Former Senior Writer
Declan McCullagh is the chief political correspondent for CNET. You can e-mail him or follow him on Twitter as declanm. Declan previously was a reporter for Time and the Washington bureau chief for Wired and wrote the Taking Liberties section and Other People's Money column for CBS News' Web site.
Declan McCullagh
2 min read
Eric Schmidt fields questions from liberal talk show host Rachel Maddow (and the audience) about politics, online journalism, and privacy. Declan McCullagh/News.com

DENVER--Google Chief Executive Officer Eric Schmidt said on Thursday that the Internet gave presidential candidate Barack Obama the ability to bypass traditional media and claim the Democratic nomination.

Schmidt showed up at the Democratic convention here on Thursday to field questions about politics, how Google is influencing online journalism, and the company's policies on privacy.

During an appearance at the literal and figurative Big Tent, a blogger workspace sponsored by Google and Digg.com, Schmidt said that Web sites like YouTube allow politicians to connect more directly with voters.

Here are some highlights of Schmidt's nearly hour-long conversation on stage with Rachel Maddow, a liberal talk radio and MSNBC host:

Declan McCullagh/News.com

* Privacy: "We do worry that as this information gets collected it becomes a treasure trove. You can imagine that in the worst possible case... we know everything you're doing and the government tries to track you." Schmidt said that some solutions are a judicial system that limits government overzealousness, the ability to discuss the topic openly that didn't exist a few decades ago, and his company's policy of limiting what data they collect beyond 18 months.

* Ted Stevens: The recently-indicted Republican senator, who previously headed the committee that drafted Internet-related laws, became famous for his mangled description of a "series of tubes." Schmidt said, in response to a question about what he thought of Stevens: "There's always a person who's first. And there's always a person who's last. And we found him."

* Recruiting: Google studied the way its recruiting process worked for male vs. female engineering hires, and made changes. It turned out that the male rating of possible hires was predictive of future performance, but the rating for women wasn't. "We had actual data that showed a bizarre bias that existed in our system. We changed it to correct that." Schmidt indicated in response to a question that Google engages in affirmative action for racial and sexual minority hiring.

* Journalism and the Internet: "We've got a major national crisis around journalism, particularly investigative journalism." Schmidt said that the three factors are higher costs of newsprint, loss of print ad revenue and effectiveness, and the shift of classified ads online (in part going to Google.) He said Google is "working hard to try things" including partnerships with media organizations in conjunction with Google News, but acknowledged that it's unclear what will work.

Alan Davidson, one of Google's Washington representatives, said the company is planning a sizable presence at the Republican convention next week as well.