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Eric Schmidt: "Google is certainly in compliance with European law"

The company, despite EU warnings of possible illegality, has released a new privacy policy that unifies data from 60 different services

Eric Schmidt: "Google cumple con las normas europeas en materia de privacidad" / El Presidente Ejecutivo de Google defiende el poder de la información y la necesidad de acceder a ella en un mundo en el que debe primar la libertad de expresión / CADENA SER

Schmidt, who took part at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, has granted Cadena SER an interview. The executive chairman of Google argues the more the company knows about its users, the more it will be able to provide them with better answers: "We have ensured that people knew what we were doing. Users can control the information we have and, if they decide that we have to forget what we know about them, we will".

Question: What is the best of being the chief executive of Google?

Answer: I get to travel all around the world and meet an awful lot of very interesting people. I believe very strongly in the power of information so I decided to spend my life talking about how important it is to get access to information and to make sure that we have freedom of expression and we can hear everybody's voices

Q: In the last few days Google has made a true revolution in its privacy policy, I think there were sixty different policies linked to all Google products, and suddenly that has been unified . But this also opens many questions: what does Google know from us and how is that information used? So I want to ask directly ... what do you personally know about me, as the user of Google I am?

A: What we did with our privacy policy was make sure people knew what we were doing. The most important thing you can know is that if you wish to use Google without telling us anything about you, you will be able to do so. Furthermore, if you are logged in, that is if we know who you are, you have control of the information we have about you. So, you can decide if we know your search historic or your location or who your friends are. And if you change your mind, you can tell us to forget.

Q: So I can use Google, with the new privacy system, without giving my data. If I decide to provide it, what are the benefits as a user?

A: In general, the more we know about you, the better we can give you answers. So, if we know for example that you live in Spain the answers we'll give you will be more Spanish in nature because there are differences in language and culture. But I want to emphasize that it's your decision to tell us that information, not ours.

Q: How I can be sure that Google is not spying on what I do, that this information will not be used for other purposes, let's say, darker?

A: If we were to do that, many many journalists would write many articles and tell everyone to switch to our competitors. Because Google has set such a strong position here, if we were to violate that we would be killed in the press, we would be killed in public discussion and the users would go.

Q: Did this convince the European Union? They had doubts...

A: The EU is a set of groups. People who we've talked with seem to understand what we're doing. We are certainly in compliance with European law. And that is very important.

Q: In the United States and in Spain there is a big debate on Internet control. You said the Internet is like water, so trying to control it is simply absurd and useless. Is it really so, or is it possible to create laws to control the abuses can come from the Internet?

A: The details matter, and there are many powerful industries that would like to simply ban things that are going on on the Internet. But by banning them they'd make the Internet not work or they'd violate free expression. So, we think intellectual property theft is a problem, and we think there are better ways to fight it than the legislation that exists in the United States.

Q: How, for example?

A: In the United States there was a legislation, called SOPA, which tried to delete things from the Internet, which should be illegal under U.S. law. But more importantly, will be establishing a principle that government could delete anything from the Internet, including things that might may want to be on the Internet. So we prefer an approach where people who are stealing content and are making money from it would be prohibited from getting money. The reason is that it's very easy for an illegal downloader to move from site to site. But if they want to collect money, they have to stay somewhere to get the money, and then we can catch them and prosecute them because what they're doing is criminal.

Q: So what is available online is not as important as the way they make money by uploading the contents...

A: That's our view. People who are seriously stealing also reselling it. And that's a crime. So, by following the money we can find them and then the police can arrest them.

Q: I would also like to talk about freedom of press and freedom of information and its role in Egypt, Libya, Tunisia... It's true that dictators find it much harder to hide, but that they are learning very quickly. There are countries that are subjugating the freedom of press -such as China, India or Turkey- to prevent its citizens from accessing information. What can Google do so freedom of expression and information gets to be as global as your company aims to be?

A: Part of what we do is we talk about this a lot. If you're a dictator, you have control over the press, you have control over the government, you have control over the people. It's very difficult for dictators to get control over the Internet. Dictators will try to shut down the Internet, especially when there's social unrest. But that doesn't work either because the Internet is so essential to the workings of the country. So for all of those reasons we think that the Internet is a democratizing force that since you can't turn it off, it will force dictators to modernize or lose their jobs. I was recently in Libya and Tunisia and I can tell you that there had been many revolts before, but they were unsuccessful... But the Internet allowed everyone to organize at the same time. Previous revolts had been crushed by dictators.

Q: I'm very interested in Eric Schmidt's opinion, as the executive chairman of Google, on the future. He has recently said the gap between people who usually use information technologies and people who don't, against what we thought, will become wider. Why?

A: I talked about this because I don't think it's good. I would like the technology gap to get smaller. However, the gap appears to be getting wider. And I think the reason is that the infrastructure in the poor countries just moved more slowly than in rich countries, like Spain. So here in Spain you have some of the best broadband, a very well-run telecommunications sector, people have access to fast Internet, compared to poor countries, where there's almost no connectivity. Over the next few years, there will be many, many new inventions using this powerful Internet here in Spain and Europe, while the rest of the world is just getting connected. So on a relative basis the gap is larger, although everyone gets better.

Q: I love that word: "inventions". You said science-fiction is getting closer. What kind of inventions, that will take us closer to the future we've seen in TV shows and movies, are we talking about?

A: I think the most important thing that's going on is that we're seeing an explosion of empirical data about everything. And this is where we have much, much information about what you're doing, how your body is doing... So the biggest impact will be in medicine. Eventually, you won't call the doctor; the doctor will call you. And they'll have some 'digital assistant' that monitors you, and when it sees that there's something wrong, he calls the doctor and says 'you can call him'. Eventually, bioengineering will allow you to, using that information, generate a new tissue, generate new body parts. The econd thing will have to do with virtual presence. In the future it'll be possible for you to be pretty much anywhere and to simulate being there. So I will be able to, if you will, participate in a rock concert and have the feeling of being there while I'm somewhere else. We could argue that my friends will be much more global because it'll be more important to find people I like than people who are nearby.

Q: There is also a very playful component in the way we approach the Internet. Will that be that in the lenses that Google has announced it will launch? What is that project about?

A: There a number of computer science projects about glasses and visual. The most interesting one is a company that has invented a contact lens that transmits your health from your contact lens to the network. If that works, contact lenses will tell you if you're ill or not.

Q: For someone who started, as so many other start-ups', almost inside garages in the style of Steve Jobs and other pioneers of this world ... What's the worst of this work, changing the garage for the tie and international flights?

A: I think as companies get larger they become in many ways more conservative, and one of the greatest things about high-tech is the start-ups; when you talk to them you have the feeling that they can completely change the world and that they are not dealing with the reality of how the world really works. It's always the biggest change, to understand that the vision that you have is tempered by the reality.

Entrevista a Eric Schmidt, presidente ejecutivo de Google