Vint Cerf of Google on Internet rights – interview
In an interview, Vint Cerf of Google says individuals do not have a right to connect to the Internet, nor does a person have the right to eliminate information that's already on the Web. About China: 'There is much more openness and tolerance of criticism' than the West generally believes.
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All you can really do is what we are already doing at Google with “Street View,” for example. We automatically eradicate license plates and faces in the first place. The technology enables us to do that. In other words, we never remember certain things to start with.Skip to next paragraph
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All of these issues reflect a concern over what norms need to be established for digital technology. We’ve never lived in an environment in which it has been so easy to capture information and share it. That fact that it is digital and easy to transmit exacerbates that. I don’t know that we know yet what social norms we wish to adopt.
To make matters more complicated, there are national boundaries; there are different cultures and customs. So establishing uniform norms around the world seems unlikely. These social norms will be “emergent phenomenon” that result from all the various conditions coming together, and that will be different for America, China, and Europe.
So far, we don’t have any social norms that govern the Internet, and that is quite troubling. The example I always use of the conundrum we face is this. If I’m visiting Egypt, I take a picture of my friend in front of the pyramids. As it happens, someone else I don’t know is also standing in the background. When I post on my website, some third party comes along and sees that the person in the background in Cairo claimed to be in Paris that day. Then that person is in trouble.
Even if unintended, this is clearly a privacy-invasive practice. Yet we haven’t adopted any global rules or norms about how we choose to behave in such circumstances. I don’t have any prescriptions. We’re just going to have to live through this to see what emerges.
GARDELS: Either it emerges organically out of experience when, for example, something bad happens and everyone recognizes it must be corrected, or you have bodies like the UN or G-20 [group of nations] seeking a minimum “code of conduct.”
Another possibility is what Twitter is doing – you just divide your territory so that you abide by sovereign rules of the nation-states where they apply and then overlay that with global openness. (Twitter has said it will post a censored tweet and the reason for the censorship on a globally accessible site, but not within a given country.) This, in essence, is also what Google has done by going through Hong Kong (.hk) instead of China (.cn).
CERF: The question, of course, is how do you exercise sovereignty in this space where national boundaries are less and less visible? When we were designing the Internet, we made a very deliberate choice to make it non-national and network around boundaries as the core of the system. But at the same time, mainly for language reasons, we designated national domains. So, if you do a Google search in Rome it will come up in Italian, though you can force it back to the global Web page if you want to. That is our attempt to be friendly to the users wherever they are.
The increasing assertion of sovereignty on a national basis is an emergent phenomenon that has resulted from the increasing use of the Web by so many.