A major conference festival dedicated to the “New Digital Age” happened last week in US in Austin (Texas). This time was an opportunity to hear Eric Schmidt, Google CEO between 2001 and 2011, and Jared Cohen with whom he cooperated to write a book of the same name – to comment on the development of new technologies in our daily lives.
Jared Cohen is one of the most influential people in the world: as such, he is ranked in the top 100 in 2013 Time magazine as director of Google Ideas, a think tank whose teams aim to “make a better world through technology.”
The discussions focused on nations with popular revolution which relied on social networks: “In Ukraine, the government realized it could not keep the opposition to stay silent. (…) In Venezuela, the opposition was muzzled under Hugo Chavez. It is no longer possible,” said Jared Cohen.
The conclusion is simple: the now ubiquitous connectivity. “Between 3 and 4 million people are connected to the Internet with their smartphone. The benefits in terms of access and dissemination of knowledge are incredible, mentioned Eric Schmidt. As we wrote in our book, the revolutions will be easier to implement. But they will also be more difficult to conclude.”
These web giants were also concerned with the potential dangers of the net and big data impact, i.e. data generated by the innumerable connections of these individuals.
“When I traveled to Syria, I saw some chemical attacks, but also situations where activists were being killed for posting messages on their walls [Facebook or Google+] . They had been spotted by the government with their internet connections. We are no longer safe even staying at home, people must learn “commented Jared Cohen.
The overall digital surveillance and the right to privacy were the main topics of this conference, especially after Edward Snowden’s revelations on how NSA could spy on our actions online.
E. Schmidt said “We were attacked by China in 2010. We were attacked by the NSA in 2013. But we’re pretty sure that the Google data are safe from prying eyes of all governments, including the U.S. one. “He believes that the solution to ensure online safety ” is to encrypt data as much as possible. We already did, but we shall speed up our actions in this field. ”
Compared to digital developments in society which are “necessary for democracies” Eric Schmidt thought that ” we have to trust companies ” like Google to preserve and promote ethical values.
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