Uh huh. Google takes a similarly generous view of its own motives on the politically vexed issue of privacy. Mr. Schmidt says regulation is unnecessary because Google faces such strong incentives to treat its users right, since they will walk away the minute Google does anything with their personal information they find “creepy.”

Really? Some might be skeptical that a user with, say, a thousand photos on Picasa would find it so easy to walk away. Or a guy with 10 years of emails on Gmail. Or a small business owner who has come to rely on Google Docs as an alternative to Microsoft Office. Isn’t stickiness—even slightly extortionate stickiness—what these Google services aim for?

Jenkins, surprisingly enough, is making the pro-regulatory case here—or at least bringing it up—in questioning the “Don’t Be Evil” nonsense. He’s talking about network effects that make it hard to leave a site or service, and they’re very real.

The press would do well to focus on them more and on the implications of having monopoly firms like Google and Facebook (and anyone big or small, really) with extensive access to private information and a strong incentive to exploit it.

The Journal’s “What They Know” series is a good start.

Further Reading:

Pushing Back Against Facebook’s Privacy Practices
: The press and others bring needed new scrutiny to the social network

WSJ Privacy Series Raises Questions on Google’s Power: The bedrock principles of the Googleplex were built on sand, after all

Google Is Not a Heroic Defender of Privacy

WSJ Turns Over the Privacy Rock Online: An excellent investigation shows the alarming amount of info Web sites collect about you

Ryan Chittum is a former Wall Street Journal reporter, and deputy editor of The Audit, CJR's business section. If you see notable business journalism, give him a heads-up at rc2538@columbia.edu.