FORTUNE — “How would you feel,” Google (GOOG) chairman Eric Schmidt asked in the Guardian last April, “if your neighbour went over and bought a commercial observation drone that they can launch from their back yard. It just flies over your house all day. How would you feel about it?”
How would I feel about a drone that could snoop on me? Probably the same way I’d feel about a company that monitored all my online activities — the e-mail I send and receive, the websites I visit, the places I visit, the products I buy, the YouTubes I watch, etc. etc. — and sold that information to advertisers.
Google’s corporate guidelines on such matters were delineated two years ago by what Schmidt calls “the creepy line.”
Creepy privacy issues, however, were not Schmidt’s primary objections to Amazon’s little delivery choppers.
Drone technology, Schmidt warned, could “democratise the ability to fight war” and fall into the hands of terrorists.
“Self-driving cars, though,” deadpans Daring Fireball’s John Gruber, who dug up the Guardian piece on Friday. “Those are OK.”
Apple (AAPL), meanwhile, is trying to make a virtue — if not a marketable feature — out of the difference between its business model and Google’s. From the Report on Government Information Requests Apple released last month: