Sergey Brin took the stage at TED this morning to answer one simple question, posed by curator Chris Anderson: what happened recently to Google in China? Brin, who kept his eyes cast down throughout much of the brief discussion, was frank. They discovered “a very sophisticated adversary,” which they believed was looking to gain access to the gmail accounts of various Chinese human rights activists. Clearly reluctant to be drawn into a political discussion on the involvement of the Chinese government, Brin instead directed his frustration at other corporations that had experienced similar security issues, but chose not to share the information. “I do think that often companies end up being shortsighted with respect to their decisions and they’re motivated by the next earnings. In particular as we’ve gone through this investigation, a number of companies were aware of attacks on systems and didn’t come forward, and as a result other companies couldn’t be better prepared,” he said, before citing the Congressional reports on the intrusion into Northrop Grumman, which lost terabytes of information regarding the F35 fighter as “very useful to our investigation.”
“If more companies were to come forward with respect to these security issues, we’d all be safer,” he said.
As for Google China, Brin described himself as an optimist. “I want to find a way to work within the system and provide more and better information,” he said. “A lot of people think I’m naive and that may be true.” Then again, he joked: “I wouldn’t have started a search engine in 1998 if I weren’t naive.”