New Delhi: Internet companies such as Google and Yahoo find themselves in the middle of a war, being pulled in two opposite directions.
On one side, there is the state. In many cases, governments want access to personal information Google and others store, so that they can monitor and silence dissent, and pressure these companies to exercise select censorship (China). In some cases, governments want, say, Google to take down a controversial blog (India).
But on the other side, there are consumers. Under pressure from privacy groups, Google announced in April that it would disclose the number of requests it had received from government agencies for user data. Last week, after a storm of protest over its privacy controls, social networking site Facebook finally announced stricter measures.
Users who access Facebook’s services for free didn’t have to cry foul. But they did, highlighting the salience of privacy in the Internet age.
As this war unfolds, the state is sure to command more firepower. But in the longer term, our money’s on the consumer.