Should Google serve the state – or serve its customers?

For four days in January, Eric Schmidt, Google’s executive chairman, lectured to packed houses at the University of Cambridge on the theme of “Connectivity and the Diffusion of Power”. His visit, as Humanitas visiting professor in media, provided a fascinating opportunity to observe a major corporate leader discussing ideas, rather than talking purely about matters of business.Schmidt’s message was that the world is set to become a much more connected planet as the next 5 billion people come online, and that this will have dramatic implications for lives, societies and individuals. These implications, on balance, would be largely positive, although there might be some alarming downsides – for example, in relation to privacy and identity.

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