NEW YORK - JUNE 23: Google co-founder Sergey Brin opens the internet company's new office space inside historic Chelsea Market June 23, 2008 in New York City. The new space, which is across the street from the older Google office, will house around 300 employees bringing the total number of Google employees in New York City to around 1,500. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Sergey Brin
Internet freedom is under attack, and the threat is coming from the government, the entertainment industry and the rise of Apple and Facebook, Google co-founder Sergey Brin said in an interview.
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 told the Guardian. "It's scary."
Governments controlling Internet access and communications, the entertainment industry trying to kill online piracy and the "restrictive" walled gardens of Apple and Facebook, are making the Internet less free, he said in the interview.
Previously, Brin thought there was little, if anything, that governments, such as those in China, Saudi Arabia and Iran, could do to restrict the Internet. But Brin now says he has been proven wrong. "I thought there was no way to put the genie back in the bottle, but now it seems in certain areas the genie has been put back in the bottle," he said.
But he also managed to say that Facebook and Apple, which have their own platforms, could also control innovation and use. Google would not have been possible today in an Internet dominated by Facebook, he said.
"You have to play by their rules, which are really restrictive," he told the Guardian. "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."
Brin also said that Google has been "periodically" forced to hand over data (at a rate of 767 requests a month) and sometimes can't even notify users that it had done so, according to the Guardian. "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," he said.
We think that Brin's words aren't necessarily true. Namely -- if Google didn't exist, there wouldn't be a Facebook. Creating Facebook and then creating Google would be like creating a car, then creating the horse and buggy. Many say that Brin's criticism of Facebook (and Apple) are coming at a time when both are challenges to Google's global dominance. Right now, Facebook's knowledge of its users means billions of dollars in ad revenue -- something that likely makes Brin and Google seethe with envy. The Apple "walled garden" is an interesting argument, but not that much of a threat to the future of the Internet, though.
Now, if you want to know more about a real threat to Internet freedom, read about CISPA.