Vint Cerf on privacy: We never really had it to begin with

20th Nov 2013 | 20:29

Vint Cerf on privacy: We never really had it to begin with

Did we ever have such a thing

Will people in the internet age ever regain their privacy? Google's Chief Internet Evangelist Vint Cerf doesn't think we ever really had that privacy to begin with.

"In a town of 3,000 people there is no privacy. Everybody knows what everybody is doing," he said at a US Federal Trade Commission event this week.

Cerf said that growing up in America before technology, no one had privacy. Keep in mind that he's credited as one of the fathers of the internet itself.

His theory is that technology, or "the industrial revolution and the growth of urban concentrations," created a sense of privacy, but that that privacy "may actually be an anomaly" rather than the natural way of things.

Spinning a web

Privacy is a sticky topic these days thanks to the National Security Administration's spying activities coming to light over the last several months.

And Google, with its myriad products and services that collect user data, frequently comes up in conversations about privacy.

The company came under fire from the European Union this year, which threatened it with hundreds of thousands in fines if it didn't fix the wishy-washy privacy policy it introduced in 2012.

And Google Glass faced privacy woes when members of Congress took notice earlier this year.

But Google has lately attempted to alter the perception that it doesn't care about users' privacy, promising it's not in cahoots with the NSA and saying that it has "a clear incentive" to protect its users' privacy.

Over the summer Google even said it was testing new Google Drive encryption that would thwart government spying.

Tit for tat

But Google's executives sometimes tell a different story, as was the case this week with Cerf and with Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt, who in September said he wouldn't "pass judgment" on the government's spying practices.

"There's been spying for years, there's been surveillance for years, and so forth, I'm not going to pass judgment on that, it's the nature of our society," Schmidt said.

Cerf's statements seemed to echo Schmidt's somewhat, though his point was different; Cerf admitted that we "need to develop social conventions that are more respectful of people's privacy."

He spoke of Facebook and other social networks, where a user's privacy might be violated, for example, when another user posts a photo with them in the background.

He said "it will be increasingly difficult for us to achieve privacy" going forward.

Via The Verge.

Google Vint Cerf privacy Google Glass FTC NSA spying surveillance
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