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Web freedom faces greatest threat ever, warns Google's Sergey Brin

Ian Katz (via SMH) | April 17, 2012
Threats range from governments trying to control citizens to the rise of Facebook and Apple-style "walled gardens", says tech billionaire.

Amid mounting concern over the militarisation of the internet and claims (denied by Beijing) that China has mounted numerous cyber-attacks on US military and corporate targets, he said it would be hugely difficult for any government to defend its online "territory".

"If you compare the internet to the physical world, there really aren't any walls between countries. If Canada wanted to send tanks into the US there is nothing stopping them and it's the same on the internet: it's hopeless to try to control the internet."

He reserved his harshest words for the entertainment industry, which he said was "shooting itself in the foot, or maybe worse than in the foot" by lobbying for legislation to block sites offering pirate material.

He said the SOPA and PIPA bills championed by Hollywood and the music industry would have led to the US using the same technology and approach it criticised China and Iran for using. The entertainment industry failed to appreciate that people would continue to download pirated content as long as it was easier to acquire and use than legitimately obtained material, he said.

"I haven't tried it for many years but when you go on a pirate website, you choose what you like, it downloads to the device of your choice and it will just work - and then when you have to jump through all these hoops [to buy legitimate content], the walls created are disincentives for people to buy."

Brin acknowleged that some people were anxious about the amount of their data that was now in the reach of US authorities because it sits on Google's servers. He said the company was periodically forced to hand over data and sometimes prevented by legal restrictions from even notifying users that it had done so.

He said: "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."

Guardian News & Media

 

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