Liz Gannes

Recent Posts by Liz Gannes

Sergey Brin: I Didn’t Actually Conflate Government Censorship With Apple and Facebook

Google co-founder Sergey Brin wrote on his Google+ account today to clarify his recent comments about threats to the open Internet by “very powerful forces,” including government censorship, Apple and Facebook.

The takeaway from the write-up of an interview Brin did with the Guardian was that Brin was conveniently lumping his competition in with very real threats to Internet freedom, while ignoring Google’s own lack of openness in various competitive categories.

Personally, I thought he sounded wistful and out of touch, though I sympathize with Brin that it’s unfortunate that no transcript or longer excerpt of the interview has been released.

Here are the three key sentences from Brin’s defense of himself today:

  • “The primary threat by far to Internet freedom is government filtering of political dissent.”
  • “I certainly do not think [the problem of “digital ecosystems that are not as open as the web itself”] is on a par with government-based censorship.”
  • “While openness is a core value at Google, there are a number of areas where we can improve too.”

Meanwhile, back at the Guardian, the outlet is running a companion interview today with Tim Berners-Lee (this time there are some audio clips, but again not the full interview). Like Brin, Berners-Lee worries about government surveillance and protectionism, but he also delves into a more nuanced problem of openness: Giving companies access to personal data for the purpose of personalization, while respecting user privacy and data portability.

Now that’s a modern, 2012-era discussion on openness.

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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik