Google held a talk at Google’s New York offices last Thursday featuring Vint Cerf, one of the architects of the internet and Google’s Chief Internet Evangelist. My invitation for the event included this paragraph:
In order to support the free and open exchange of information at our speaker series events we ask that attendees refrain from recording or reporting on these meetings, their content or Google. Please contact our communications team at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions regarding this policy.
I didn’t wind up going, and I was planning on asking beforehand the specifics of that request. Like, the fact that it says “attendees refrain from recording or reportin on… Google”, does that mean, like, ever? It’s a vaguely worded request, and one many attendees would proabably violate in small ways, and it certainly pissed off one attendee, who wrote a post titled, “I drank Google’s beer, then left“.
The rational that google said justified this request for secrecy and the privatization of knowledge was one of collegiality. I found that justification to be ironic. Colleagues share within the limits of their judgment. Collegiality is broken as soon as the judgment is turned into a ruleset, as soon as trust becomes moot and i no longer have to trust you, instead i just have to trust that you are following the pre-ordained rules. At that point in time of the announcement of rules, anyone in the room could be called colleagues, afterwards we were all subjects to Google and any collegiality was limited by Google’s rules. We were all constructed as lesser beings, less equal, more likely to damage others. We were ‘other’, and untrustworthy, which is the implication of the ‘no blogging’. If you want people to be friends, to become a community, you have to let them communicate, you have to let them establish the common ground by consent.
Thus I had to leave, as I was not going to be subject of Google beyond what I’ve already contracted. I could not consent to silence. I am surprised that the speaker in question would allow this rule, but not that surprised in the end.
We’ve seen the “no blogging” rule before, and for the most part, it’s just stupid. You let a large amount of people into an event and don’t make them sign an NDA, it gets out. Usually, it’s older companies that know little about the internet that make demands of attendees like this, not net-savvy companies like Google.