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Google's Schmidt: We were attacked by the Chinese and the NSA

Published time: March 07, 2014 20:43
Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt (AFP Photo / Manan Vatsyayana)

Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt (AFP Photo / Manan Vatsyayana)

Google chairman Eric Schmidt admitted on Friday that government attacks from China and the US forced his company to enhance security protocols.

Speaking at the SXSW technology conference in Austin, Texas, Schmidt said governments around the world have realized that attempts to block internet access are futile and have moved on to other methods of control.

“You don’t turn off the Internet: you infiltrate it,” he said in a wider-ranging conversation, as quoted by the Guardian. “The new model for a dictator is to infiltrate and try to manipulate it. You’re seeing this in China, and in many other countries.”

When asked about the role of technology in terms of popular uprisings in countries like Egypt and Ukraine, Schmidt said the spread of mobile devices has allowed people to organize much more easily - but although “revolutions are going to be easier to start,” they’ll also be “harder to finish.”

The Google executive also expressed concern over the possibility that countries could choose to edit what their citizens can find on the web.

“Imagine if the Arab world decides to delete all references to Israel?” he said. “It looks like people are going to use child safety as the starting point. Russia just passed a law nominally about child safety which pretty much allows arbitrary takedown of videos...There’s something strange, or at least duplicitous, at starting from something where we all agree, and then using it for other purposes.”

As for the bulk surveillance program being run by the US National Security Agency, Schmidt noted that Google has sped up its goal of encrypting data at several different points, adding, “We’re pretty sure right now that the information that’s inside of Google is safe from any government’s prying eyes, including the US government’s...We were attacked by the Chinese in 2010, we were attacked by the NSA in 2013. These are facts.”

The NSA is expected to be a big topic of discussion at SXSW, since former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden and journalist Glenn Greenwald are both scheduled to address the conference remotely. Snowden is responsible for leaking previously undisclosed documents about the NSA surveillance program to Greenwald, who has helped publish them in the media.

Schmidt’s remarks come just a couple of days after he spoke at a separate conference in Santa Monica, California. There, he predicted that in the near future, robots will become so prevalent they will “replace a lot of the repetitive behavior in our lives.”

“We’re experimenting with what automation will lead to,” he added at Oasis: The Montgomery Summit, according to Bloomberg News. “Robots will become omnipresent in our lives in a good way.”

These comments certainly fall in line with Google’s activity dating back over the past year, in which it purchased eight robotics companies in a span of only six months. In general, Bloomberg noted that over the last three years, Google has bought more companies than any other business.

In January, Google acquired a startup called DeepMind, which specializes in artificial intelligence. Though its work is something of a mystery, DeepMind is believed to be developing “deep learning” capabilities, or the process of enabling a machine to learn in the same way a human can. This ability would likely allow for major scientific breakthroughs in the future.

“The biggest thing will be artificial intelligence,” Schmidt stated. “Technology is evolving from asking a question to making a relevant recommendation. It will figure out things you care about and make recommendations. That’s possible with today’s technology.”

On the robotics front, meanwhile, Google’s acquisition of Boston Dynamics in December was also noteworthy, since that company often supplies robotics technology to the Pentagon and moonshot projects under the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.

As noted by Yahoo, other purchases include Meka, which develops robotic faces that “are capable of mimicking human emotions,” and Schaft, which works on robots that can be used during rescue operations too risky for humans to take part in.

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