Google’s Brin: ‘Worried’ about open Web

April 16, 2012

Google co-founder Sergey Brin said in an interview Sunday that he’s worried that governments and Internet companies will erode open and universal access to the Web, calling them “very powerful forces that have lined up against the open internet on all sides and around the world.”

“It’s scary,” Brin said during during his interview with The Guardian on the future of the Web.

Brin expressed concern about governments’ capabilities to block Internet sites and about the rise of proprietary platforms among companies such as Facebook and Apple. Information in those closed systems, he noted, cannot be searched.

“There’s a lot to be lost,” he told the newspaper. “For example, all the information in apps — that data is not crawlable by Web crawlers. You can’t search it.”

He was particularly critical of Facebook, whose rules, he said, are “really restrictive,” making it hard to transfer contact data out of the social network. Users can download an archive of information on Facebook but cannot convert that data easily to other services. Google has recently taken steps to integrate its social graph into search with Google+ and Search Your World, which serves personalized results to queries typed into Google’s engine. The changes, which are optional for users, have not been popular with some consumers.

Brin said he was troubled by censorship of the Web in countries around the world, such as China and Saudi Arabia, where governments can seemingly turn off the Web for long stretches of time.

The 38-year-old Internet entrepreneur also took aim at legislation that could restrict some Internet companies’ access to user information. He had strong words for the Stop Online Piracy Act and the Protect IP (Intellectual Property) Act, the anti-piracy legislation sitting in Congress that has prompted strident debate among lawmakers, regulators and media and Web firms. The entertainment industry , he said, is “shooting itself in the foot” by pursuing anti-piracy measures while not realizing that people turn to piracy because it’s easy to use and the content works on several tech devices.

Piracy becomes attractive when legitimate sites have “disincentives for people to buy,” Brin said. Consumers often have to go to “jump through all these hoops” to get the content they want, sometimes have to submit to lengthy registration processes before being able to download music or movies.

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Hayley Tsukayama covers consumer technology for The Washington Post.
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