Schmidt has 'no recollection' of search fiddle

A couple of days ago, we published a story about a new book In the Plex: How Google Thinks, Works and Shapes Our Lives, which promises to reveal some unpleasant and embarrassing details about the inner workings of the world's favourite search engine.

One revelation caught our eye in particular: that one-time Google CEO Eric Schmidt had asked for details about a political donation he had made to Barak Obama's presidential campaign should be suppressed in Google search results.

At the time, the request was turned down as 'unacceptable' by ex Google exec Sheryl Sandberg, according to the book's author Steven Levy.

When we published the piece we though that Google's PR machine might have something to say about the accusation, fully expecting the weight of the giant corporation's legal department to come crashing through our digital back door, but the response we received this morning was uncharacteristically timid, surprisingly conciliatory and telling in its brevity.

Google's UK PR outfit emailed us saying they would appreciate it if we could ammend the article to include Google's official response:

“Eric has absolutely no recollection of this incident”.

Seriously. That's it.

The CEO of the world's biggest, richest and most trusted Internet resource, having been accused of attempting to suppress information about a perfectly legal political donation, says he doesn't remember whether he did it or not.

More than that, the company has made absolutely no effort to convince us that this is not something which happens on a regular basis.

If Eric Schmidt thinks it's OK to deliberately skew search results for his own personal gain, how many other people within the company are throwing spanners into the works for whatever reason?

US institutions, including the likes of Google have been crowing about how China - or Iran, or whatever political bogey man it is using to frighten the children this week - is guilty of suppressing the news, or the Internet, or the voice of the people, but it now seems that giant US corporations, which we trust to give us the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth every day of our lives, are technically capable of editing that truth on a whim, as long as they forget they did it at some undisclosed point in the future.

It's important to remember here that Schmidt has never said that he didn't do the deed, he just has 'no recollection' of doing it.

The inability to deny an action with such far-reaching consequences could be seen as tantamount to an admission.

Google has now moved so far away from its original 'Don't be evil' motto in its quest for cash that it no longer caries the weight of its own conviction, and has eroded its own credibility to a point where people will soon question whether the information it serves to pretty much the entire population can be trusted.

Google might be sitting at the top of the search engine tree with its virtual monopoly on Internet advertising and search right now, but when the mighty fall, they fall hard.

Just ask Yahoo!