Google co-founder Sergey Brin spoke with The Guardian over the weekend and offered up his opinions on a series of topics related to the current state of affairs with the internet and the technology world as a whole. Unsurprisingly, Brin spoke of his company as if it was unfairly besieged by competitors and government alike.
Brin ominously told the Guardian that there are “very powerful forces that have lined up against the open internet on all sides and around the world.” Brin cited several issues that, while applicable to the average internet user’s access to the web, are issues near and dear to the heart of Google.
He compared previously proposed bills like SOPA and PIPA to internet restrictions enacted in more censorship-ready counties like Iran and China. Brin also opined that he didn’t expect that the government siding so heavily with the entertainment industry would actually curb any kind of illegal file-sharing of copyrighted materials, saying that people will always find a way to circumvent the laws in order to download pirated content. Instead of blaming the internet user, Brin said that it was the fault of the entertainment industry for creating an environment that encouraged privacy in the first place. “When you have to jump through all these hoops [to buy legitimate content], the walls created are disincentives for people to buy,” he said.
The issue of online piracy was recently renewed once again earlier this month as a court order Google’s online video site, YouTube, to defend itself in a new lawsuit filed by Viacom, who has charged that the website is guilty of perpetuating the access to pirated material to millions of internet users.
Brin also didn’t hold back his criticism of two his company’s chief rivals, Facebook and Apple, saying that their notorious walled gardens are “restrictive” and that such practices stifle imagination and invention. Given that Facebook is said to be working on its own search engine these days, Brin said that the site would actually have prohibited him and Google’s other co-founder, Larry Page, from even creating Google had Facebook dominated the internet when they created the search engine. “You have to play by their rules, which are really restrictive,” Brin 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.”
It’s peculiar how everything Brin is saying about his rivals could very well be applied to his own company, as well. Google has certainly enjoyed a long run of online dominance over the past several years and continues to command a majority of all search traffic to this day.
The Guardian didn’t let him off the hook so easily, asking him to comment on Google’s recent user privacy overhaul that had much of the internet in an uproar. Addressing the concerns of how Google may turn over user information to the government or law enforcement, he said that Google was periodically required to turn over such data to the authorities. Worse, sometimes Google is “prevented by legal restrictions” from even informing a Google user that their information has been handed over to the government.
So after laying out all of the disparaging words about government intrusion into the internet and competing against other companies, is Brin having a pot-kettle-black moment here?