Google Collaboratory Report #1

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Collaboratory ReportIt’s done! Over the course of the last few months I’ve been part of the German Google Collaboratory “Internet & Society”. The expert group is part of Google’s effort to reach out to multiple stakeholder groups and discuss with experts the challenges and opportunities our society faces. We discussed a whole range of topics from privacy to media literacy to democracy, and conducted a survey among the German web community about all this. We crunched the numbers and interpreted the input we got.

Today, the final report was published. Download the report here (PDF, 1.9MB, language: .de). (Update: find all reports here.)

Together with Henning Lesch of eco and I focused mainly on privacy. You can find the results and essence of the research under the headline “Datenschutz & Privatsphäre”.

What really struck me – in the expert group as well as in the survey and in the discussions we had with politicians – is how hard it is to come to any clear solutions in this field. It almost seems like we, as a society, need to have some in-depth discussion on which exact questions to even ask, and how to define all the buzz words. Do we need anonymity online? How much? Absolute or relative anonymity? What exactly does anonymity entail? It’s really not all that simple.

Although I will say that personally I strongly favor an internet that allows for anonymity over one where all action can be tracked. In fact, I believe that the opportunity to discuss open and free and without fear of repercussion (in other words: in anonymity) is an important basis of a strong and free democracy. (Luckily, many, many of the participants of our survey hold a similar view.)

Long story short: I tremendously enjoyed working with all these smart folks. And I hope this report can help foster a good discussion about where we’re headed and how we’d best get there.

As it is today, there is much to discuss, and not all of the folks in a position to make the relevant decisions seem to be up to speed. (And you can’t blame them, there’s just too much on everyone’s plate!) In the US, Code For America exists solely to support the decision makers in DC with external expertise in all questions related to the web. If there’s demand for something similar in Germany, sign me up. We as the web community shouldn’t stand back and complain about politicians, but instead offer a hand to work with them. There’s no other way forward.

Full disclosure: I’m a member of the Google Internet & Society Collaboratory and I worked with Google before.