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Sergey Brin Goes To Washington

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The challenge of finding Senators willing to hear Google’s point of view on network neutrality will look like a walk in the park compared to the prospect of changing course with its business in China.

Sergey Brin Goes To Washington
Google Defended On Capitol Hill

In an ideal world, a billionaire founder of one of the most influential Internet companies in the world would be able to get the ear of US Senators, and chat about an issue of importance to his firm.

As the Washington Post reported, DC is not an ideal world. Google co-founder Sergey Brin’s last-minute stop in the nation’s capital was an unplanned, off the cuff decision.

In that ideal world, Brin would have been able to talk to people like Commerce Committee Chair Ted Stevens (R-AK) about network neutrality. That meeting and ones with four other Senators could not be arranged, though chats with another four were accomplished.

“It wasn’t very well organized,” Brin said in an interview with the Post. “I apologize. It was a last-minute trip.”

He probably does not need to apologize for the hastily arranged schedule. When one party has a majority in both houses of Congress, and your company is well known for supporting the minority party (we need say no more than “Eric Schmidt hosted an Al Gore fundraiser” here), majority Senators will be less inclined to clear calendar space at the last minute.

Brin did some apologizing anyway, but not about dropping in unexpectedly. Instead, Google’s foray into China has proven a decision that still spurs debate within and outside the company.

Entering China’s Internet market caused significant debate within Google’s hierarchy. Its decision to establish a presence there while obeying Beijing’s censorship requirements meant Google had to place profiting from a booming Internet market over its fabled ‘don’t be evil’ pledge.

After Brin made the rounds on Capitol Hill, he told reporters that Google only acceded to Chinese censorship demands after Beijing blocked Google from the country’s users. He did note that Google’s rivals agreed to the same conditions before Google, yet without the uproar surrounding his company’s entrance.

The Mercury News cited Brin’s comments on the China issue, and the quote will likely provide fuel to the fiery rhetoric of the company’s far-ranging critics on issues of Chinese censorship and information privacy:

“We felt that perhaps we could compromise our principles but provide ultimately more information for the Chinese and be a more effective service and perhaps make more of a difference,” Brin said.

Brin also addressed Internet users’ expectations of privacy in an era of increased government surveillance, saying Americans misunderstand the limited safeguards of their personal electronic information.

“I think it’s interesting that the expectations of people with respect to what happens to their data seems to be different than what is actually happening,” he said.

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David Utter is a staff writer for WebProNews covering technology and business.

Sergey Brin Goes To Washington
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