Google’s Schmidt: What I Worry About

The following is an edited excerpt from a speech by Google
executive chairman Eric Schmidt to the National Press
Foundation March 7 in Washington, D.C.

The Internet is not a utopia. It reflects
humanity, the good as well as the bad.

I worry about three things:

The first thing is that the Internet was built without
criminals in mind. When we built the Internet we didn’t
think they were going to show up. The apparent vulnerabilities
in our design will exist for at least another decade.
So, fixing this problem is a huge task. Except for
military networks, every single node on the Web that is
connected will need to be updated with new technologies
that are being developed now. And while threats
come from individuals and even groups of people, the biggest problem
is going to be activities stemming from nations that seek to do
harm to others. It is very difficult to identify the source of cybercriminality
and stop it.

Problem No. 2: Th e fact that there is no delete button on the Internet
forces some very difficult public policy choices that we have never
really imagined. Much of the existing privacy debate centers
on the tension between public’s right to know and the
very important right of individual privacy. So you have a
situation where a false accusation in your youth used to
fade away. I certainly hope that ranking and other things
like that will emerge that distinguish between truth and

Finally, I worry about government’s filtering information
they fear or prohibit. It’s easy to see their logic, but where
does the line get drawn? Last year we saw in Egypt what
happened when a government tried to turn off the Internet.
Now smarter, many governments are trying to build
their own walled Internet, a balkanized Web in which you
and I do not see the same information and no one knows
what’s been censored.

Not only does filtering not work, it creates dark places where hate
and radicalism and crime can flourish. It is much better to find and
stop the criminal rather than merely block his or her Web page. Filtering
technology will inevitably become more effective, and we face the
very real possibility that we could end up living in a society in which
software silently deletes our voices, our thoughts and our culture.