Google Co-Founder Brin: Apple, Facebook Pose Threat to Internet Freedom

Singling out Facebook, Apple and governments around the world, the Google co-founder aired concerns over Internet openness.

Internet freedom is in a more perilous position than ever before in history, said Google co-founder Sergey Brin, speaking to The Guardian newspaper. He cited "very powerful forces€ across the globe that are putting pressure on the open standards under which the Internet was envisioned. "I am more worried than I have been in the past," he told the paper. "It's scary."

In comments likely to be controversial, Brin singled out the social networking behemoth Facebook, which counts more than 800 million members worldwide and is close to floating an initial public offering (IPO) that could be worth close to $100 billion, and technology giant Apple. Brin said these companies€™ proprietary platforms and stringent user-control policies could stifle Internet freedom and access to information. "You have to play by their rules, which are really restrictive," he said. "The kind of environment that we developed Google in, the reason that we were able to develop a search engine, is the Web was so open. Once you get too many rules, that will stifle innovation."

Brin also referenced the governments of countries like China, which Google partially pulled out of in 2010€”and Iran and Saudi Arabia, which closely control how information is retrieved and disseminated. "I thought there was no way to put the genie back in the bottle, but now it seems in certain areas the genie has been put back in the bottle," he said. "There's a lot to be lost. For example, all the information in apps€”that data is not crawlable by Web crawlers. You can't search it."

The U.S. government was also the subject of criticism, with Brin noting citizens were right to be worried about how much information Uncle Sam could request access to€”and how much power Google has to resist encroachment. "We push back a lot; we are able to turn down a lot of these requests. We do everything possible to protect the data. If we could wave a magic wand and not be subject to U.S. law, that would be great,€ he said. €œIf we could be in some magical jurisdiction that everyone in the world trusted, that would be great €¦ we're doing it as well as can be done."

The billionaire Internet entrepreneur who, with Larry Page, co-founded Google, one of the world€™s most powerful (and ubiquitous) technology companies, fired a parting shot across Facebook€™s bow by criticizing the company€™s alleged attempts to prevent its users from transferring their data to other sites. Brin may have been referring to Google€™s rival social networking platform, Google+, which has struggled to attract users at the speed with which Facebook ballooned. "Facebook has been sucking down Gmail contacts for many years," he said.