Google’s Sarah Hunter is utterly, completely our favourite policy lobbyist in the UK. She’s a gift who can’t stop giving. Lord Derry Irvine's god-daughter was on Blair's personal staff, and was formerly No.10 policy advisor for culture. She gave top media and telecoms people an education at a Westminster Forum conference today.
The internet is very connected, said Hunter. It’s symbiotic.
“It’s like the Gaia Theory,” she explained. “A butterfly flaps its wings and a tsunami happens in another part of the world,” she explained.
Actually, no. The butterfly illustration is used to highlight non-linear chaotic systems. That’s maths. The Gaia Theory is a cybernetically-inspired metaphor coined by James Lovelock, that invites us to view the Earth as a self-healing organism. It’s ontological. The Earth may be chaotic, but these are two different “theories”. They're also well known pop-science terms, it's surprising that anyone could mix them up.
Hunter was talking at a Westminster Forum event called “Dear Jeremy”, the Jeremy being Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt. The event invited top telecomms, media and internet companies to submit their wish-lists for Hunt’s forthcoming Communications Bill. It was a bit like speed-dating. You can see why Google might be invited, but it’s all about regulation of old media.
The 2003 Comms Bill created a super-regulator, OFCOM in 2003, and it famously doesn’t include the word “internet”. This was by design, for as soon as you start defining the internet it becomes out of date. Today, Google didn’t go as far as to compare itself to the Medici Family, but it said that it was pretty damned important and should be left alone.
“No one talks about how important the platforms are,” said Hunter, “but they’re the jam in the sandwich.... YouTube, or Blogger, or Flickr, or Facebook. We all take them for granted. It’s very expensive and very hard to do YouTube.”
And even more expensive when YouTube has to pay for its content.
She also made a plea for data hoarding. Google and Facebook seem to be engaged in an arms race to grab as much of your personal data as they can. But there’s a reason for this, Hunter explained.
“It’s the only way, frankly, to make money on the internet - people giving data away. It allows people like us to understand what users like and to change the service accordingly.” Hunter said she feared privacy laws – without using the ‘P’ word.
“The direction of travel is not as sensible as it ought to be.”
She also said computer scientists should be appointed to top company boards. Funny, that. Hunter first starred at The Reg when she explained shopping was more important than the production of new cultural stuff. She last featured when she put her name to Google’s submission to the
Chairman John Whittingdale MP thanked her for a fascinating list of things: “all of which had nothing to do with the Communication Bill.”
You can see why we love her so much. ®
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