Privacy not in Eric Schmidt's vision of the future

Other speakers at the Cebit opening ceremony emphasized personal data protection

Google Chairman Eric Schmidt painted a messianic picture of our technological future on Monday, involving holographic telepresence, self-driving cars, automatic translation and the widespread deployment of 1Gbps Internet access over optical fiber, bringing transnational peace and communication to all.

Schmidt was speaking at the opening ceremony of the Cebit trade show in Hanover, Germany, the theme of which this year is "managing trust."

However, Schmidt said nothing about privacy, the area where users of Google's services in Germany and elsewhere in Europe seem to be most concerned about the trust they can afford to place in the Internet giant. Last week Google introduced a new privacy policy despite calls from European data protection authorities to wait while they completed an investigation of the company's privacy practices.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel cautioned on Monday night that cloud computing services such as those offered by Google are not without their dangers.

"The more you take them for granted, like electricity from a wall outlet, the more important it is that you can rely on them," she said, concluding the opening ceremony.

When people store their personal data in the cloud, she said, "We must make sure that the data is not used by anybody else."

David McAllister, the premier of the German state of Lower Saxony where the show takes place, was more direct in his warnings.

"As the Internet makes further inroads into the spheres of business, administration and government, the issue of security and trust in the digital world is becoming more important and of increasing interest," he said before Schmidt spoke. "However enthusiastic we might be about the potential of the Internet and social media as a platform for information and communication, this should never be at the expense of personal privacy or copyright laws."

And Dieter Kempf, president of the German association for the high-tech industry, Bitkom, had more advice for Schmidt:

"Signs of trust including the protection of data privacy, safety and transparency are by far the most important criteria" when buying goods and services online, he said. "Without confidence there can be no online shopping, no cloud computing."

Schmidt followed Kempf and dismissed the matter of trust in technology summarily, saying that for us to trust it, the technology must exist in the first place.

He had more to say about what technology will bring us, including optical fiber connections delivering 1Gbps Internet access in almost every city by 2020; driverless cars able to navigate Germany's autobahns at high speed, and the ability to rent holographic telepresence devices to visit the places those cars cannot take us.

Such pleasures will likely be reserved for those with a deep knowledge of IT, in Europe or the U.S., or perhaps the "connected contributors," those who have access to technology and understand how to use it but not how it works, said Schmidt.

But there is still another category of potential customers, the 5 billion people not yet online. They will skip dial-up or broadband connections and go straight to mobile, said Schmidt.

Even modest amounts of Internet connectivity for such people will change lives, said Schmidt.

"There will be elites, but they won't have a monopoly on progress. The weak will be made strong, and those who have nothing will have something," he said, gathering pace.

But a digital divide will continue to exist and, if anything, "The gap between the top and bottom will be larger than today," he said.

Nevertheless, he concluded, "We can create a connected world of equals," leaving a look of surprised incomprehension on the face of some of his listeners.

Peter Sayer covers open source software, European intellectual property legislation and general technology breaking news for IDG News Service. Send comments and news tips to Peter at

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Peter Sayer

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Breitling Superocean Heritage Chronographe 44

Learn more >

SanDisk MicroSDXC™ for Nintendo® Switch™

Learn more >

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Panasonic 4K UHD Blu-Ray Player and Full HD Recorder with Netflix - UBT1GL-K

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

Razer DeathAdder Expert Ergonomic Gaming Mouse

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles


PCW Evaluation Team

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?