In June 2011, Julian Assange received an unusual visitor: the chairman of Google, Eric Schmidt, arrived from America at Ellingham Hall, the country residence in Norfolk, England where Assange was living under house arrest.
For several hours the besieged leader of the world’s most famous insurgent publishing organization and the billionaire head of the world’s largest information empire locked horns. The two men debated the political problems faced by society, and the technological solutions engendered by the global network—from the Arab Spring to Bitcoin. They outlined radically opposing perspectives: for Assange, the liberating power of the Internet is based on its freedom and statelessness. For Schmidt, emancipation is at one with US foreign policy objectives and is driven by connecting non-Western countries to American companies and markets. These differences embodied a tug-of-war over the Internet’s future that has only gathered force subsequently.
When Google Met WikiLeaks presents the story of Assange and Schmidt’s encounter. Both fascinating and alarming, it contains an edited transcript of their conversation and extensive, new material, written by Assange specifically for this book, providing the best available summary of his vision for the future of the Internet.
The WikiLeaks publisher's latest book presents a response to The New Digital Age by Google's Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen. Much of the text consists of a transcript of the interview Assange did for Schmidt and Cohen in 2011 for their book while being held under house arrest in England. Over its course, Assange stresses the need for anonymity for "non-powerful organizations" and transparency for "powerful organizations" and humanity's common "intellectual record." He also dismisses the supposed damage done by WikiLeaks' release of information as a "rhetorical trick" in a way that some people may find overly flip. Reflecting back on the interview, Assange calls it the best he's ever given, and certainly the lengthy talk will give readers a strong if not altogether appealing impression of all three men. Assange's critical comments in the non-interview sections, about Google's cooperation with government intelligence agencies, won't come as a revelation to anyone who's followed news reports about the PRISM program. But he does provide copious footnotes for the claims he makes. While the book may feel like it's treading old ground, it should appeal to anyone interested in a more transparent future.