When Google Met Wikileaks by Julian Assange, book review

 

Among the pioneers of the dark net was a character named “Proff”, who became an outspoken member of the cypherpunk mailing list around 1993. Proff was “a gifted young Australian called Julian Assange”, no less. In When Google Met Wikileaks, Assange makes a case for the dark net by suggesting that the open web site we all know best has sinister intentions. “Nobody wants to acknowledge that Google has grown big and bad. But it has,” he says.

The eccentric Wikileaks founder is holed up in the Ecuadorean embassy in London, where he has political asylum, but the action here takes place in the rural surroundings of Ellingham Hall in Norfolk, where he gave an interview to Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt in June 2011 while under house arrest fighting extradition to Sweden. The conversation coincided with Arab Spring uprisings, anti-capitalist protests and Wikileaks continuing to anger the United States by releasing diplomatic cables online.

This is a settling of scores. Schmidt and Google colleague Jared Cohen used the interview in their co-authored book The New Digital Age, which Assange claims “misrepresented my words”. So the Australian has set out a transcript of the exchange, alongside an account of what he has since learned of Google and its intentions.

The transcript reveals how Assange responded helpfully to Schmidt’s questions about Wikileaks and its security (“Do you end up on the phone a lot?”, “I assume you can do email?”). At times the exchanges are comic, such as when Schmidt refers to the dark net’s Tor as “Thor” and Assange quips: “And Odin as well”. The atmosphere is friendly enough for Assange to ask Google to leak him any sealed US government orders for information on Wikileaks. Schmidt promises to speak to company lawyers.

But having believed Schmidt to be “a brilliantly but politically hapless Californian tech billionaire”, Assange concedes “I was wrong”. He had not appreciated the Google chief’s relationship with the US government, including the National Security Agency (NSA). The penny dropped when Wikileaks formally warned the State Department of its publication of cables and received an email response from Lisa Shields who, as Schmidt’s partner, attended the Ellingham Hall interview. “At this point I realized Eric Schmidt might not have been an emissary of Google alone,” claims Assange.

He acknowledges that the Internet giant began with a “decent, humane and playful culture” and is still widely-seen as “a magical engine”.

But after reading The New Digital Age he decided that Google’s aim was to “position itself as America’s geopolitical visionary”. Angry, he wrote a disparaging review in the New York Times headlined “The Banality of Don’t Be Evil” (after Google’s ‘Don’t Be Evil’ slogan). Four days later, Snowden made his revelations of the NSA’s accessing of Google data.

At the end of the Norfolk interview, Assange tells Schmidt he is engaged in “a very old struggle between opportunists and collaborators”. Three years later, having decided that the man he was talking to is on the other side of that contest, he concludes: “If the future of the Internet is to be Google that should be of serious concern to people all over the world.”

Arts and Entertainment
Victoria Wood, Kayvan Novak, Alexa Chung, Chris Moyles
tvReview: No soggy bottoms, but plenty of other baking disasters on The Great Comic Relief Bake Off
Arts and Entertainment
80s trailblazer: comedian Tracey Ullman
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Stephen Tompkinson is back as DCI Banks
tvReview: Episode one of the new series played it safe, but at least this drama has a winning formula
Arts and Entertainment
TV
News
Graham Norton said Irish broadcaster RTE’s decision to settle was ‘moronic’
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Attenborough with the primates
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Former Communards frontman Jimmy Somerville
music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Secrets of JK Rowling's Harry Potter workings have been revealed in a new bibliography
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Fearne Cotton is leaving Radio 1 after a decade
radio The popular DJ is leaving for 'family and new adventures'
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Public Service Broadcasting are going it alone
music
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne as transgender artist Lili Elbe in The Danish Girl
filmFirst look at Oscar winner as transgender artist
Arts and Entertainment
Season three of 'House of Cards' will be returning later this month
TV reviewHouse of Cards returns to Netflix
Arts and Entertainment
Harrison Ford will play Rick Deckard once again for the Blade Runner sequel
film review
Arts and Entertainment
The modern Thunderbirds: L-R, Scott, Virgil, Alan, Gordon and John in front of their home, the exotic Tracy Island
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Natural beauty: Aidan Turner stars in the new series of Poldark
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift won Best International Solo Female (Getty)

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Shining star: Maika Monroe, with Jake Weary, in ‘It Follows’
film review
Arts and Entertainment

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith arrives at the Brit Awards (Getty)

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Anne Boleyn's beheading in BBC Two's Wolf Hall

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Follow every rainbow: Julie Andrews in 'The Sound of Music'
film Elizabeth Von Trapp reveals why the musical is so timeless
Arts and Entertainment
Bytes, camera, action: Leehom Wang in ‘Blackhat’
film
Arts and Entertainment
The Libertines will headline this year's festival
music
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Dean Anderson in the original TV series, which ran for seven seasons from 1985-1992
tv
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

    Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

    Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
    Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

    What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

    Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
    The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

    Setting in motion the Internet of Things

    British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
    Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

    Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

    Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
    Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

    Cult competition The Moth goes global

    The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
    Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

    Pakistani women come out fighting

    Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
    Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

    Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

    The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
    LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

    Education: LGBT History Month

    Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
    11 best gel eyeliners

    Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

    Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
    Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

    Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

    The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
    Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

    Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

    After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
    Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

    Climate change key in Syrian conflict

    And it will trigger more war in future
    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
    Is this the way to get young people to vote?

    Getting young people to vote

    From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot