eG8 Forum sparks showdown between internet leaders and government regulators

The eG8 Forum came to a close yesterday as prominent web leaders met in Paris to discuss the future of the internet. Among the participants was Jimmy Wales of Wikipedia, executive chairman of Google Eric Schmidt, and Mark Zuckerberg of White Plains, New York.

The idea behind the forum was to foster communication between lawmakers and industry leaders, in the hopes that this will lead to more comprehensive and effective regulation of the net.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy welcomed the guests with a speech about how “the Internet has enabled us to realize the dreams of Enlightenment philosophers” and that “The Internet is also a sector of economic activity essential to the growth of the world’s economies”.

This rising speech suggests two things:

First, Sarkozy evidently writes his own material.

Second, his capitalisation of the word “internet”, as if it were some kind of deity, shows just how much this conversation needs to be had.

Sarkozy took the opportunity to criticize search engine — and repository of all human knowledge — Google about its privacy policy, claiming its executives lived in a “parallel universe, where legal and moral rules, and more generally, all the basic principles that govern society in democratic countries do not apply.” While this is, of course, an accurate description of Google headquarters, the chairman refuted claims that his company breached its users’ privacy.

Personally, I think he’s still sore over this:

I wouldn’t mess with Google, man. They know things. Like everything you’ve ever searched.

But, as Eric Schmidt himself said: “If you have something that you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place”.

Okay, so Sarkozy may have a point.

APC’s own invitation to the eG8 was evidently lost in the mail. But that’s cool, because “we were busy anyway”:

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