This week the executive chairman of Google Eric Schmidt let it be known that he’s fearful of the control China keeps over its citizens in regards to the internet – and has called upon the rest of the world to have a discussion about what that country’s handling of the web means for us all. Saying China’s censoring and control of the internet is currently “the most egregious example” of a country keeping a fierce grip over its citizens access to the web, Schmidt made it clear that the recent hacking of the New York Times was an example of a very negative pre-cursor to Chinese citizen fear. This chat occurred at the Big Tent Activate Summit in New Delhi, India, this week with Guardian editor-in-chief Alan Rusbridger.
Schmidt reminded the audience of the way China’s government handles dissidents who speak to news sources “in confidence” about information they consider sensitive. Those that the government discovers have leaked “sensitive” information fall victim to some rather terrible things, Schmidt noted: “I would lost my job, my family would be killed, or I would be executed.” Because of this, Schmidt warns of the possibilities with the New York Times hacking case, once believed by the publication to have been done by the Chinese government.
“You take notes as a journalists and you write those down – but where do those notes go? You don’t have to answer for the Guardian, but how would you feel if the Chinese had just hacked into the New York Times and gone into all of the servers of the New York Times … how would you feel if you were a Chinese dissident? You’d be worried, if you had indeed done that.” – Schmidt
Of course it’s not all bad – connecting the whole world with the internet may eventually create a more even playing field for those of all walks of life. But Schmidt warns of a place we’re in now where privacy is a massive factor in deciding how we work with the web.
“These are some of the problems that happen when everyone’s connected … My point here is that this [ability to intrude on privacy] is going to happen because the value of the internet is so profound and positive, but we’ve got to recognise the issues and get ahead of it by discussion.” – Schmidt
Do you agree with the Google executive chairman? How important is privacy security to you when we’re talking about countries that murder their own citizens for speaking with newspapers?