Google Co-founder: Web freedom at risk

The underpinnings of the creation of the internet, namely openness and access, are at risk, said Sergey Brin, co-founder of Google in an interview with the Guardian.  Brin warned there were “very powerful forces that have lined up against the open internet on all sides and around the world… I am more worried than I have been in the past,” he said. “It’s scary.”

According to Brin, the corruption of the philosophical foundations of the internet is coming via government obstruction and intrusion, the entertainment industry’s crackdown on piracy, and the walled garden approaches of Facebook and Apple which control which types of software can be released on their platforms.  Brin is no stranger to fighting censorship: Google famously pulled out of China in 2010 over fears of excessive censorship and cyber-attacks. 

Brin claims that he would not have had his success with Google if Facebook had been dominating the web as it is today: “You have to play by their rules, which are really restrictive,” he said. “The kind of environment that we developed Google in, the reason that we were able to develop a search engine, is the web was so open. Once you get too many rules, that will stifle innovation.”  Many critics of Google fear that they hold too much information, and that Google has already released too much personal information to the government and other companies.  Brin acknowledged these criticisms, and added that “We push back a lot; we are able to turn down a lot of these requests. We do everything possible to protect the data. If we could wave a magic wand and not be subject to US law, that would be great. If we could be in some magical jurisdiction that everyone in the world trusted, that would be great … We’re doing it as well as can be done.”

Facebook and Apple, coincidentally, are Google’s two biggest competitors, so publicly tarnishing their ethics makes sense from a business standpoint.  But if Facebook and Google are the kettle, Google is most definitely the pot calling them black.  Google supports a highly-controversial cyber-security bill called the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act which allows the government to monitor information given to private companies, with many vague privacy restrictions.  Google was also recently implicated in collecting personal information on wifi connections through their Google street cars without knowledge or consent of the public.  This seems to me like nothing other than a ploy by a businessman to drum up some negative PR for his competitors.  I’ll start believing what Brin has to say when his actions corrolate with his words.


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