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Google's Boycott Misses the Mark

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Google is all for googling, as long as you don't google a Google executive.

That's the lesson that Jai Singh, CNET News.com founder and top editor, learned the hard way when the company informed him that no one from Google would speak to anyone at News.com for a full year.

"We are not happy with the situation and would like it to work out," Singh said. "Other companies have had issues with our reportage," but this was the first time he could recall a company actually blacklisting a news organization.

The boycott came to light last week when News.com began including a twist on the standard corporate response in articles relating to Google. It read, "Google could not be immediately reached for comment. (Google representatives have instituted a policy of not talking with CNET News.com reporters until July 2006 in response to privacy issues raised by a previous story.)"

That previous story, which News.com linked to, was headlined "Google Balances Privacy, Reach," and showed just how much information Google has placed at our fingertips. To illustrate, staff writer Elinor Mills spent 30 minutes googling Eric Schmidt, Google's chief executive officer, then published Schmidt's net worth ($1.5 billion), his net gain from selling Google stock this year ($140 million), the town he calls home (Atherton, California), the fact that he is an amateur pilot and "roamed the desert at the Burning Man art festival in Nevada."

"That such detailed personal information is so readily available on public websites makes most people uncomfortable," Mills wrote. "But it's nothing compared with the information Google collects and doesn't make public." She worried that "hackers, zealous government investigators or even a Google insider who falls short of the company's ethics standards could abuse that information."

The question is how could a company like Google, which has become the toast of Wall Street, have such tone-deaf public relations?

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