The following is a post by Stephen Adler, editorial director of Thomson Reuters professional, that was taken from one of his blog posts at aif.thomsonreuters.com. Adler is a moderator at some of the panels at the Aspen Ideas Festival, which runs through July 11. Thomson Reuters is one of the sponsors of the event. The opinions expressed are Adler’s own.
Do a Google search for David Drummond and you’ll learn, amidst the 211,000 hits, that he is Google’s senior vice president and chief legal counsel. What you won’t learn is that he’s an especially eloquent spokesperson for his employer as it tries to live by its own “Don’t Be Evil” rule in a world of complicated choices. You need to come to the Aspen Ideas Festival to learn that — or you could watch a video of him on You Tube, which is also, of course, owned by Google.
Google is on everyone’s mind because it has so quickly become essential to our lives and a powerful disrupter of orthodoxies. It always seems to be on the front lines, on one side or the other, in big societal battles over such issues as censorship, the right to privacy, the meaning of copyright, the evolution of 21st century antitrust law, the future of the news industry, even the nature of the workplace.
In Aspen on Wednesday, Drummond was interviewed on stage by Walter Isaacson, president and CEO of the Aspen Institute and former editor of TIME magazine. After calling Drummond “a lucky lawyer” for having connected with Google’s founders when they were just starting out in 1998, Isaacson went on to ask some good, tough questions. Drummond flicked them away pretty effortlessly. Some highlights from the lucky lawyer:
CHINA: Google is doing the right thing by refusing to provide a censored service within China while directing Chinese users to an uncensored version based in Hong Kong. “You can say the moral thing to do is to be engaged or you can boycott. Trying the middle way is a lot harder — to try to do some good locally while not compromising the principles.”
PROFITS VS. PUBLIC INTEREST: “More information is always better. Serving the user really aggressively is what we want to do. We’ve never really seen that big a conflict” between making money and serving the customer.
PRIVACY: “If you’re willing to let a company like Google know more about you, where you’ve been and what you’ve done, we can deliver much better services [such as really targeted advertising]. That has to be done in a way where the user knows what’s going on and has control over it”
ANONYMITY ON THE WEB: It’s not either, or. There are people who are very comfortable with revealing their identities. Anonymity can be good too – people should be able to use Google services anonymously.
THE MOBILE FUTURE: We’re absolutely moving from a PC world to a mobile world. The mobile experience will improve through continued innovation and will be even better than the Web experience because it will be more social and more easily targeted to the individual user.
QUALITY JOURNALISM, ANYONE?: “Ad-based free journalism online hasn’t been enough to sustain the kinds of newsrooms, remote offices and bureaus that quality journalism needs. We want to be part of the solution – to the extent it involves paid content we want to be a distribution arm for that too.” Information doesn’t need to be free. But it should be accessible.